An Armenian Sketchbook
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An Armenian Sketchbook

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  143 ratings  ·  30 reviews
An NYRB Classics Original

Few writers had to confront as many of the last century’s mass tragedies as Vasily Grossman, who wrote with terrifying clarity about the Shoah, the Battle of Stalingrad, and the Terror Famine in the Ukraine. An Armenian Sketchbook, however, shows us a very different Grossman, notable for his tenderness, warmth, and sense of fun.

After the Soviet go...more
ebook, 160 pages
Published February 19th 2013 by NYRB Classics (first published 1965)
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I said I wanted books to be like these churches, simply made yet expressive, and that I would like God to be living in each book, as in a church.

The monastery at Geghard, which Grossman visited.

This is a short but intensely personal travel memoir written by Vasily Grossman on an extended trip to Armenia from 1961-1962. He was supposed to be there to translate a bricklike 'socialist realist' novel about a smelting plant. The manuscript for his long wandering epic about the war on the Eastern Fron...more

- Martiros Saryan (1880-1972) "Armenia's national artist"

What a coincidence - just a few days after reading Burton Watson's charming The Rainbow World, I happen to read Vasily Grossman's An Armenian Sketchbook. I love little stories of real, existing human beings told by people who still love our sad little species.(*) And since, in my view, there is no real love without close and illusion-free acquaintance, such love is tempered with a clear knowledge of our trivialities, our inconsistencies, o...more
From his first day in Yerevan to his last vignette, a wedding at Mount Aragats, Vasily Grossman's glimpses of life in Armenia of 1962 hold your interest.

You feel enriched after each page of this book, whether it is describing the trout on Lake Sevan, Arutyun's sons, the Geghard monestary or Grossman's thoughts on nationalism the writing has both insight and beauty.

The book is brief making every word work.

A year or so ago I saw the film which (despite a very iritating love s...more
James Murphy
In 1962, Vasily Grossman, the author of the controversial WWII novel (in the Soviet Union), Life and Fate, which dared to suggest the Soviet military might be as savage as the German, traveled to Armenia. This record of his journey is a delightful celebration of the human spirit he found there. Above everything Grossman admired about Armenia was its people, the peasants of this mountain republic who've endured the stoney hardships of pulling a living from resistant earth. As he writes the events...more
I, who have always loved books on travel, had never heard of An Armenian Sketchbook. Yet, as I started reading Vasily Grossman's book, I saw that this was not only one of the greatest of all travel books -- on a par with Patrick Leigh Fermor, Sir Richard F. Burton, and the great E. Lucas Bridges, author of The Uttermost Part of the Earth -- but also a great work of literature in its own right.

Arriving in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, Grossman is not met at the railroad station, but must find...more
Helene Pilibosian
I read this book written by the Ukrainian Vasily Grossman, whose work as a writer was rejected by the Soviet Union, to see what his reaction to visiting Armenia would be. He was noted for writing in great detail about war and terrorist situations. But what I found surprised me.
He arrived in Armenia in a chatting, analytical and philosophical mood, which he shared most enthusiastically. He described the peasants, the statue of Stalin, the train, Yerevan, and the mountains where the peasants lived...more
Shivaji Das
Vasily Grossman writes a memoir about his stay in Armenia, the source of one of the most scattered diaspora - from flashy LA party-kids to sweaty migrant cooks in Moscow kitchens.

The book doesn't delve with the long persecuted history of Armenians. Also, given that the author didn't understand much Armenian, his ability to go deep into their unique culture is limited. He couldn't interact much with the people except for enjoying moments when locals would greet him with niceties or laugh at his...more
Vasily Grossman's An Armenian Sketchbook takes a tone almost like travel writing in describing the people and landscapes he encounters during his exile in Armenia.

Grossman was in the process of completing Life and Fate when the manuscript was siezed by the Soviet government, and in response Grossman begins translating an Armenian novel into Russian in order to lie low for a while as well as earn some extra money.

Here is where An Armenian Sketchbook picks up, with Grossman arriving in Armenia a...more
This is poetic prose. It made me laugh, it made me cry. Vasily Grossman is quietly becoming a favorite author of mine. He sees what's important (and what's not so important), writes it down and leaves it for us to enjoy.
Loved this book. Beautiful, humane, intelligent and insightful. Cannot recommend it highly enough.
Nancy Dardarian
Such a thoughtful and articulate observer and excellent writer. I loved this book.
An absolute gem of a book
Although there is a helpful introduction by Robert Chandler and Yuri Bit-Yunan in this edition, I have done a bit of research in order to write this review. Wikipedia, of course, came to the rescue with the geography I needed. On my blog you can see it at left, Armenia bordered by Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, which like Armenia was part of the USSR when Grossman wrote his book in 1962. According to Wikipedia, Soviet rule under Lenin was not too bad, compared to the Ottomans. Armenia wa...more
Scott Lake
Grossman brings Armenia to our doorstep in a delightfully poetic way. Four aspects attracted me to this book: 1. It was on the 'recommended by our staff' shelf at the local library, 2. It is small and easily fits into a backpack. 3. I've been blessed to have friends with Armenian heritage throughout my adult life, and I wanted to know just a bit more about their homeland. 4. The opening paragraph quoted here: "I first glimpsed Armenia from the train, early in the morning: greenish-gray rock - no...more
Mark Sacha
An interesting coincidence here: apparently, the original manuscript of Grossman's Life and Fate - the same whose confiscation by the KGB left a pall over the waning years of the author's life (he never knew of its eventual publication) - has just been released...

...a development that serves as a sort of quiet justice for the writer. The translators of Grossman's later works have noted the repeated use of the phrase "life and fate", which reveals a preoccu...more
I am looking forward to reading Grossman's LIFE AND FATE which I've seen described as WWII's WAR AND PEACE. Grossman had been a combat reporter with the Russian army and, so, had a good deal of experience. The SKETCHBOOK is of a later date, the early '60s, when he went to Armenia to translate a novel about a copper-smelting factory into Russian. There is a lot about the stony, unforgiving nature of the land and the titanic struggles of the Armenians to make a life. There are passing references t...more
For anyone who has read Grossman's writings, this book is a must. My favorite quote (and there are many in this short book): "The gift possessed by a great poet or scientist is not the highest of gifts. Among even the most brilliant virtuosos of the mathematical formula, of the musical phrase and poetic line, of the paintbrush and chisel are all too many people who are weak, petty-minded, greedy, servile, venal, and envious -- people like slugs or mollusks, moral nobodies in whom, thanks to the...more
Nancy Burns
Chapters 10,11 and 12,read them and perhaps you will feel some emotion or even joy....…as I did when I realized I had discovered such a wonderful writer!

This is a small book but very powerful….and not to be missed.

Here is my review:
Opens with a striking image that dominates the Capitol city of Yerevan - a giant statue of Stalin constructed on the top of a hill, his head reaching the clouds. Closes with a long description of a peasant wedding in which a feeling of eternal brotherhood is evoked, beyond the reach of even the most horrible of despots.
I didn't know anything about Grossman before reading this and really was interested in reading this to learn about Grossman's perspective on visiting Armenia (in the 1960s). I think I would have appreciated the book more if I'd had a greater understanding of Grossman's life and works, although a decent amount is represented in the memoir and in the introduction. What I found most compelling was how, as a Russian-Jewish journalist who had covered the Nazi extermination camps and survived Stalin's...more
Miriam Gaudio
E' una raccolta di riflessioni sulla vita, su quello che vive. Questo mostra un'anima attenta, non superficiale.
Tom Wascoe
Written two years before his death, and after Soviet Russia had confiscated his nove "Life & Fate', these are the reflections of a man near the end of his life. Grossman was working in Armenia translateing an Armenian novel into Russian. These are basically his notes and observations from his time there but go beyond a travel book into reflections on various aspects of life and his beliefs. It is a little look into his soul.
bibliotekker Holman
This little book came in the mail and I just had to break into it. The combination of a good tactile feel (often found in quality paperbacks from academic presses...something you don't get in an eBook)and an opportunity to view a more upbeat and personal side of Grossman...along with my fascination with Armenia....overwhelmed me.
Kobe Bryant
I'm glad that Vasily made a bunch of friends in Armenia
Bloggy. Proto-bloggy? This is not a bad thing. My favorite part was the Sevan Trout adventure. That and the shade thrown on Vazgen I.
Rambles a bit at times, but made me want to visit Armenia even more.
Peter Edelman
An author who should be better known through his major novel LIFE AND FATE and his wartime writings. New York Review of Books has issued many of his books.

Here are some passages that got to me:
Perfect worlds do not exist. There are only the funny, strange, weeping, singing, truncated, and imperfect universes created by the gods of paintbrush and musical instruments, the gods who infuse their creations with their own blood, their own soul. When he looks at these worlds, the true Lord of Hosts, t...more
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NYRB Classics: An Armenian Sketchbook, by Vasily Grossman 1 3 Oct 18, 2013 01:26PM  
  • Letters from Russia
  • Autobiography of a Corpse
  • Memoirs of a Revolutionary
  • Testing the Current
  • The Bridge of Beyond
  • Happy Moscow
  • Pitch Dark
  • Turtle Diary
  • In Love
  • Transit
  • The Crisis of the European Mind
  • Adventures of Sindbad
  • The Broken Road: Travels from Bulgaria to Mount Athos
  • Mr. Fortune's Maggot
  • During the Reign of the Queen of Persia
  • The Goshawk
  • Voltaire in Love
  • Amsterdam Stories
русс: Василий Гроссман

Born Iosif Solomonovich Grossman into an emancipated Jewish family, he did not receive a traditional Jewish education. A Russian nanny turned his name Yossya into Russian Vasya (a diminutive of Vasily), which was accepted by the whole family. His father had social-democratic convictions and joined the Mensheviks. Young Vasily Grossman idealistically supported the Russian Revo...more
More about Vasily Grossman...
Life and Fate A Writer at War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army Forever Flowing The Road: Stories, Journalism, and Essays L'inferno di Treblinka

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“A mountain had died, its skeleton had been scattered over the ground. Time had aged the mountain; time had killed the mountain-and here lay the mountain's bones.” 3 likes
“The longer a nation's history, the more wars, invasions, wanderings, and periods of captivity it has seen-the greater the diversity of its faces.” 2 likes
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