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A Writer at War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  2,616 ratings  ·  147 reviews
Edited and translated from the Russian by Antony Beevor and Luba Vinogradova Knopf Canada is proud to present a masterpiece of the Second World War, never before published in English, from one of the great Russian writers of the 20th century – a vivid eyewitness account of the Eastern Front and “the ruthless truth of war.”

When the Germans invaded Russia in 1941, Vasily Gro
Paperback, 380 pages
Published March 13th 2007 by Vintage Canada (first published 2005)
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4.15  · 
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 ·  2,616 ratings  ·  147 reviews

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Steven Godin
Made up mostly of Grossman's own notes, wartime observations, letters, and interviews of those at the heart of Russia's battle during WW2, historian Antony Beevor (who writes much vitally needed explanatory material in-between) with the help of translator Luba Vinogradova creates the most detailed and sweeping panorama of war I have read for a long time. Grossman doesn't hold back on the terrible and horrific Maelstrom that took place, calling his descriptions 'the ruthless truth of war', which ...more
A Writer at War is a selection of Grossman's wartime writings, some journalism for an army newspaper, some scribblings from his notebooks and bits from his letters. I stepped into reading it from Life and Fate which at the time seemed a sensible decision, in hindsight I am not so sure, while there are bits which plainly get recycled into his later fiction - for instance a group of soldiers sawing up a frozen horse for their dinner (or perhaps breakfast - well for a meal for sure) and in general ...more
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: russian
This is an inside look at Soviet soldiers and civilians caught up in the fighting in WWII. Vasily Grossman, reporting for the Red Army newspaper Kraznaya Zvezda (Red Star), was there on the front. This book is based on his notebooks containing his unvarnished observations and opinions many of which could not be published under Soviet censorship. The raw excerpts are arranged into chapters combined with some of his finished pieces and letters and linked together with text by the editors providing ...more
An English language translation has just been released (June 2019) of Vasily Grossman’s novel “Stalingrad”, and I intend to read it sometime this year. As a precursor, I decided to try this collection of his WWII writings. Grossman served right though the conflict, from the summer of 1941 to the fall of Berlin. As an already established writer, he was assigned as a war correspondent to the Soviet military newspaper “Red Star”, although he certainly didn’t use that an excuse to avoid the frontlin ...more
Feb 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fascinating. If anyone has an interest in the eastern front in WW2 this is a very good read. I am glad that I read Life and Fate prior to reading this book as it allowed me to understand how Grossman was influenced to write his masterpiece.

- "Assault groups of the 62nd army dislodge the Germans from house after house, basement after basement, tightening the iron ring around them."
Photographer : Georgy Zelma (1943)
Photo Credit : United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration, College Park

This book makes you go through 5 years of WW2 beside writer-journalist Vassili Grossman.

One the one hand, the excerpts from the writer's diary and mail, on the other hand, Anthony Beevor offering
Mar 07, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-two
Grossman is an engaging writer, especially considering his editorial circumstances, but he's let down a bit by his subject: during the Retreat and Stalingrad, he seems to have much more time to collect anecdotes & have more potential interviewees at hand than once the Red Army picks up speed to the Fascist Lair. Also, anecdotes. Some are so minute as to barely fill a short paragraph, others feel generic for those readers versed in Eastern Front books - meaning his stuff's so good it gets rec ...more
Czarny Pies
May 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: WWII history buffs
Recommended to Czarny by: My Mother in law who witnessed the Eastern Front first hand
Shelves: european-history
Bravo to Antony Beevor for producing this compilation of Vasily Grossman's war reporting. Beevor made extensive use of Grossman's published and unpublished writing in his book "Stalingrad" which won three major history prizes. In an act of great professional courtesy, Beevor created this excellent volume so as to draw the public's attention to Vasily Grossman who deservers to be much better known than he is.

Grossman was the senior Russian journalist covering at the front during WWII. He was the
Walter Mendoza
Oct 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A great book about the German Russian war, point of view journalist Vasily Grossman. Starting with German invasion, the heroic Battle of Moscow, the bloody Battle of Stalingrad, the epic battle of Kursk, the atrocities of Treblinka and the ruins of Berlin.
Great Edition by Antony Beevor, about Grossman's notes; the vastness the events and stories of war. In conclusion an excellent job of the brutal life of people during the war. I recommend this book.
Apr 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Grossman, the author of the magnificent Life and Fate, took notes tirelessly as he covered the Second World War for Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) and was, despite Soviet censors, regarded as one of the war’s best journalists. His coverage of the siege of Stalingrad is powerful and gritty and focused on the individual solider, officer, resident. His article on Treblinka was one of the first reports on Hitler’s death camps published in any language. His insistence on reporting on the Holocaust and do ...more
Tom Marshall
Oct 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding insight - both of the Great Patriotic War from the intelligent, facile skills of a talented Russian writer and into the evolution of one of the most still oddly neglected and impactful authors of the 20th century.

And absorbing work throughout - one where the book's editors Beevor and Vinogradova enlighten the work rather than burden it - it would be worth reading alone for the excerpts of Grossman's notebooks which he fashioned into "The Hell Called Treblinka," a work quoted at the N
Oct 27, 2012 added it
Recommends it for: BBC radio listeners

Starts 00:30 Sunday 18th November: Elliot Levey reads Vasily Grossman's front line despatches from the battle of Stalingrad

#1. Through Chekhov's Eyes: In the war of the rats, snipers like Anatoly Chekhov reigned.

Powerfully written.

One of those that shall remain un-rated.
It is amazing that Vasily Grossman survived. He was an honest man at a time when honesty got people killed. What saved him was his talent and fame. His first book, The People Immortal, was published in 1942 to great acclaim, and his columns as a war correspondent for the Soviet army newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) were very popular.

He kept a series of notebooks containing material for his newspaper articles, descriptions of people and scenes he wanted to remember, and details about the army
This wasn't very interesting at all, but that's hardly Grossman's fault. I'm going to read Life and Fate one day, despite having had to force myself through this book. This is a bit like Alexievich's type of history telling, but without the interesting human aspect. I'm not very interested in where which armies (or generals) were when, because I won't remember it anyway, and the anecdotes the editors of this book have put together in between these dry details are sometimes just too random and ha ...more
Mickey Mantle
Mar 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A magnificent book.
Spellbinding.....a humanistic account of a brutal war...from Moscow through Stalingrad, Kursk, Treblinka, Warsaw and on to Berlin.
Interviews with the regular soldier on to Generals and all conducted at the front.
Absolutely fabulous.
Jul 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
An astonishing book. A Soviet writer/journalist's notes as he experiences the harsh truth of war. One can see the influences for his masterwork, Life and Fate. Some scattered anecdotes, some longer essays. Excellent.
Kiera Healy
Aug 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent account of the frontline Red Army experience during WW2. Vasily Grossman, a Jewish Soviet, became a war correspondent when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, and his writings move from the seemingly hopeless time of 1941 through to the turning point of Stalingrad, and then the march westward until the fall of Berlin.

This collection of notes - some articles, some letters, some private jottings, mostly unedited by propagandists and untouched by censors - paints a remarkable
Feb 10, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Russian/History Buffs
Shelves: non-fiction
A collection of dairy entries and notes from Russian author Vasily Grossman while he was a war-correspondant for the Red Army during WWII, most notably the battle of Stalingrad. He is best known for his novels Life and Fate and Forever Flowing, but this is a great primary source to see how his own experiences during the war influenced his novels, short stories, and his philosophy regarding the Soviet Union and the Holocaust. A fascniating writer and historical figure, as he is commonly considere ...more
Grossman's notes and his short articles are well combined with Antony Beevor's narrative of Russia in WWII and Grossman's experiences. Grossman's attention to the details and the human voices of the soldiers he meets reminded me of Svetlana Alexievich as both authors look for the Russian spirit in times of drama. It's a rare USSR (and Jewish) author who was able to criticise Stalin, honour the average man and report accurately. Well worth reading for an understanding of what Russia went through ...more
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Powerful book

A powerful book about WWII mainly on the Eastern Front and the battle of Stalingrad. It does go on with Grossman 's travel with the Soviet forces to Berlin. The details are not as numerous as the information before, during and after Stalingrad. Grossman does write some very powerful prose about Triblinka that is heart-wrenching. For those interested in the Eastern theatre of WWII, I highly recommend.
Sarah Beaudoin
Jul 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is hands-down one of the best nonfiction books I've read. Grossman was a journalist assigned in Stalin's army during World War II, and he spent almost the entire war at the front. This includes being present for nearly the entire battle for Stalingrad, being one of the first people at Treblinka after its liberation, and arriving in Berlin shortly before the German authorities surrendered. Grossman chronicles his observations, with a particular focus on the individual experiences. The result ...more
Nov 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
it was a really enjoyable read about how a sensible, non-political journalist got by about Stalingrad, the great tank battle of Kursk, and the Siege of Berlin.
I really liked he made interviews with the simple soldiers as with the hig ranked officials and while the nightmares of war has raged with full force, he could remain human -
which is the hardest thing to do.
If you want to read a detailled but human writing about war, soldiers this book is highly recommended.
Jun 07, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: group, non-fiction
I read this book as a forerunner to Stalingrad by Vasily Grossman, to be published in English translation in June 2019.
Vasily Grossman was an official war correspondent for Krasnaya Zvezda, the Red Army newspaper, throughout their involvement in the Second World War. This book is taken from the notebooks he wrote in at the time, rather than his published articles, so includes his own thoughts. His published articles were subject to censorship, but his notebook entries were not and it is refreshi
Steve Coscia
Jan 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Unique WWII insight from a Russian perspective. Very honest and detailed accounts of the war's great battles in the east. Grossman's courage and honesty earned the respect of both foot soldiers and military leaders. Grossman's was able to capture the essence of events because he didn't write notes while speaking with soldiers, he just listened intently and allowed the soldiers to vent. Then later, he would write all the details in his notebooks. His notebook entries are very honest - the good, t ...more
Jul 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, world-war-ii
It's not often that you get a man who is a primary source AND knows how to write, and therein lies the importance of this book. Add to that the fact that this comes from the Soviet side, and also that Grossman really had an eye for the small, humane details, and you get a great book.

Of course, since Grossman's contributions come from his notebooks, just pasting those notes together would not qualify the result for a successful book. And this is where Antony Beevor does a great job in editing, ex
Apr 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wwii
One of the best read about WWII from the Russian side.
Oct 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
(FROM MY BLOG) The Russian Academy of Sciences has estimated that the Soviet Union suffered 26.6 million fatal casualties in World War II, of which 8.7 million were military deaths.  Other researchers, according to Wikipedia, put the total number of dead and missing as high as 40 million, with 14 million of those being military.

In the West, we naturally focus our attention on the Normandy invasion and the battles in North Africa and Italy in determining the cause of Germany's defeat.  We overloo
Jul 31, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can’t believe that the experiences of someone who spent almost the entire war with the Red Army fit into 350 pages. In my opinion, this book should have been much longer. It had large sections on Stalingrad and Treblinka but basically rushed through the rest of the war. I also felt the editor was either over explaining the context of Grossman’s writings or under explaining them. This book had very vivid descriptions of the atrocities of the war written by Grossman though, which made me put his ...more
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a WOW! book. First book of the year I'll give a 5 star to. The authors notes, and excepts from his articles in The Red Star made me feel like I was in the trenches with the Red Army. I prior service myself (U.S. Regular Army) so my tendency has been to view them from the perspective of the threat...seeing them through his eyes, in all their humanity, was really enlightening. I can't wait to read another of his novels. Grossman's reputation as one of the best Russian authors of the 20th ...more
Peter Goodman

“A Writer at War: Vassily Grossman with the Red Army, 1941-1945,” edited and translated by Antony Beevor and Luba Vinogradova ( Pantheon books, 2005). Grossman may have been the greatest war correspondent of World War II. He served through the entire war, from the bewilderment and panic at the first invasion, through Stalingrad – the entire battle – and on through the battle of Kursk up through the capture of Berlin and the first few weeks after the end of the war. Although he was an out of shap
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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 Revolution of 1917.

When th
“We leafed through a series of the [1941 Soviet] Front newspaper. I came across the following phrase in a leading article: 'The much-battered enemy continued his cowardly advance.” 8 likes
“No one could understand; nor could she explain it herself. This senseless kindness is condemned in the fable about the pilgrim who warmed a snake in his boson. It is the kindness that has mercy on a tarantula that has bitten a child. A mad, blind kindness. People enjoy looking in stories and fables for examples of the danger of this kind of senseless kindness. But one shouldn't be afraid of it. One might just as well be afraid of a freshwater fish carried out by chance into the salty ocean. The harm from time to time occasioned a society, class, race or State by this senseless kindness fades away in the light that emanates from those who are endowed with it. This kindness, this stupid kindness, is what is most truly human in a human being. It is what sets man apart, the highest achievement of his soul. No it says, life is not evil.” 5 likes
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