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Life and Fate

(Stalingrad #2)

4.42  ·  Rating details ·  9,184 ratings  ·  1,046 reviews
A book judged so dangerous in the Soviet Union that not only the manuscript but the ribbons on which it had been typed were confiscated by the state, Life and Fate is an epic tale of World War II and a profound reckoning with the dark forces that dominated the twentieth century.

Interweaving a transfixing account of the battle of Stalingrad with the story of a single middl
Paperback, 871 pages
Published May 16th 2006 by NYRB Classics (first published 1960)
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Robert I agree entirely with James. I read the book as a stand alone and was very captivated by it. After talking with some folks about the book. The charect…moreI agree entirely with James. I read the book as a stand alone and was very captivated by it. After talking with some folks about the book. The charecters althou having the same name do have very different mannerisms when comparing the books. After Stalins death, Grossman was not afraid to feel free to be honest about the Stalinist State in Life and Fate. While in his previous books he felt pressured by the state underwhich he wrote his novels.(less)
Hendrik Mentz Possibly it was part of the BBC Radio 4 series that ran in 2011, accessible via Amazon as: 'Life and Fate: The Complete Series (Dramatised) Audio Down…morePossibly it was part of the BBC Radio 4 series that ran in 2011, accessible via Amazon as: 'Life and Fate: The Complete Series (Dramatised) Audio Download – Original recording' >> | Hopefully the URL I copy and pasted displayed and/or is alive.(less)

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May 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michael by: William Beavers
I have to use the “M” word for this panoramic portrayal of the Soviet experience of World War 2—masterpiece. I was moved and uplifted, enlightened and devastated, and ultimately made into a better person wit more empathy and understanding of the human condition.

This is an insider’s view, as is made clear by the wonderful background provided by the translator, Robert Chandler. Grossman was a Ukrainian Jew who studied chemistry in his youth, became a novelist with the support of Gorky, and with
Mar 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
When I first learned that Vasily Grossman's model for this novel was War and Peace, I thought he was setting his sights astronomically--not to say unattainably--high. There are huge differences between the two books, of course. Remember Tolstoy's lovely modulated long sentences? Grossman doesn't even try to compete on that level. By contrast, his language tends toward the so-called "Soviet" realism of the day. This was a style in which many of the Party hacks also wrote. The difference between ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
Жизнь и судьба = Zhizn i sadba = Life and Fate: a novel‬ (Stalingrad #2), Vasily Grossman

Life and Fate is a 1960 novel by Vasily Grossman and is seen as the author's magnum opus. Technically, it is the second half of the author's conceived two-part book under the same title.

Although the first half, the novel For a Just Cause, written during the rule of Joseph Stalin and first published in 1952, expresses loyalty to the regime, Life and Fate sharply criticizes Stalinism.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز چ
A confession in three parts
Well, I was completely wrong about this book, and I am pleased to admit it. To nuance that, if I was going to give it a Goodreads star rating it would be two star, maybe two and a half, or 2.47.

I was even so unwise to tell a very dear friend that in my opinion it was no more than a 20th century rewrite of War and Peace, which it is but...more importantly it emphatically is not.

I had also imagined that it was about the battle of Stalingrad, reading, I see that really
4 1/2

Grossman stands in the tradition of the Russian novelists of the nineteenth century. His characters, like Dostoevsky's, engage in great philosophical debates; and the structure of Life and Fate is loosely based on that of Tolstoy's War and Peace. Ideologically, however, the model to which Grossman admitted to feeling closest was Chekhov… who brought into Russian literature a new kind of humanism based on the ideas of freedom and loving kindness.
Tzvetan Todorov

Grossman during the Second Word
Aug 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russian-novels
A monumental novel in the Great Russian tradition which has been rightly compared with War and Peace. It focuses on the Battle of Stalingrad, but covers a Science Institute, various prison camps and a concentration camp. The list of characters is vast and the dramatis personae in my edition was well used.
Grossman was a journalist who covered the Battle of Stalingrad from the front line and his experience shows. However this is, like War and Peace, very much not just a war novel. Its scope is br
Maru Kun
The past, as they say, is a foreign country and also a more literate one.

The USSR in the first half of the twentieth century was a place where a father would worry about which poets were read by his daughter’s boyfriend, a place where you might still love someone despite their inability to distinguish Balzac from Flaubert and where a soldier on the front line of one of the most dreadful military conflicts in history would complain that their comrade-in-arms did not properly understand Chekov.

Nov 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When you consider the steps that had to be taken to smuggle this novel out of the Soviet Union, painstakingly photographed page by page on microfilm, you cannot but marvel at the determination and effort made by believers in the power of the written word to bring such important stories to light. This epic novel is, along with Victor Serge's stunning masterwork Unforgiving Years , the best fictional depiction I've read of the barbaric inhumanity of the Soviet experience in the Second World War ...more
Vit Babenco
Aug 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Life and Fate is an epical and panoramic canvas meticulously portraying the whole pivotal period in the life and fate of a man, people, countries and the entire world.
“The intuition of a deafened and isolated soldier often turns out to be nearer the truth than judgements delivered by staff officers as they study the map.
An extraordinary change takes place at the turning-point in a battle: a soldier looks round, after apparently gaining his objective, and suddenly finds he has lost sight of his c
May 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Both epic in scope and intimate in detail, this powerhouse novel had me riveted from the very beginning. The prose style is spare yet luminous. Many have mentioned Chekhov as model for the writing style, and that feels right to me. There are some truly haunting scenes in this book. But it's the constant juxtaposition of the tragic and the comic, the grand and the banal, that gives this novel its true heft. ...more
Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
What an astonishing book Life and Fate is; what an astonishing man Vasily Grossman must have been. I’ve already written a partial assessment of this literary masterpiece on my Ana the Imp blog, a post I headed The Grand Inquisitor, which focused on the contents of a single chapter, one I had just finished, one that literally winded me, both intellectually and emotionally. Well, now I’ve finished the whole novel and it captivated me from beginning to end; captivated me with its intensity, its ran ...more
Adam Dalva
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
An absolute masterpiece, the intense scenework of Chekov mingled with the epic scope of Tolstoy, and a genuine act of bravery. The novel, centered on Stalingrad during World War II, thrums with anti-Soviet sentiment and anger over the holocaust (Grossman's mother was murdered by Germans) - it's little wonder that it was suppressed during Grossman's lifetime, and something of a miracle that it survived 28 years to finally be released. Its ambitions are huge - it takes on nuclear physics, fascism, ...more
Having read War and Peace a couple of months ago in which Tolstoy pointed out already in the mid nineteenth century the role of accident and fate in the success of military campaigns, thus underlining their futility, I wondered how any European leader could ever have embarked on another takeover knowing the outcome of Napoleon's campaigns. But of course there was WWI and WWII as if nothing had been learned about trusting Emperor style dictators driven by monstrous personal ambition; after Napole ...more
Jan 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The worst reviews, in my humble opinion, are those that begin with this sentence: I really wanted to like this book? Oh? This confounds me? Who starts to read a book that they hope they will not like? Do people really open books they hope will appall them, torture them with typos and improbable plots, confuse them with experimental mazes of style and drown them in gibberish? Isn't every book we start one we hope will be the greatest ever? What kind of twisted reader DOESN'T WANT TO LIKE A BOOK?

Megan Baxter
Nov 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a huge sprawling novel, centred around the battle of Stalingrad, but weaving in and out and incorporating the Holocaust, the Soviet detention centres, Soviet science under Stalin, life at the front, life at home, and the nature of freedom and humanity. (And I found Grossman's musings on the latter two more readable than Tolstoy's long philosophical digressions, to be perfectly honest.)

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enfor
May 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mother-rus
This review was constructed while drinking. Pub Guinness veered into Sierra Nevada Torpedo at home. Yo La Tengo kept pushing immediate questions: why not, why not? Why isn't Life and Fate a fucking rock star on goodreads?

Apparently such matters don't work in translation, well, unless it is Murakami or Bolano. I do find that rather akimbo, disjointed silences on germans and russians while YAs run amok. I did note that TWO of my coworkers are reading 50 Shades.

No, the novel isn't a streamlined ma
Dec 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I really liked this book

It is softer and less ideological than other Soviet literature I have read from this time - I can certainly see why it was banned

It uses the backdrop of the battle of Stalingrad to explore the interlinked lives of an extended family and the people they come into contact with

There are parallels with War and Peace which I am sure was the authors intention

Warning - a bit of a brick at 850+ pages - not a quick read
David Lentz
Jun 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This masterpiece published by New York Review of Books Classics enters my Top 5 among novels by James Joyce (Ulysses), Proust (La Recherche du Temps Perdu), Tolstoy (War and Peace) and Gaddis (JR): it is pure genius in its epic scope. Inspired by Tolstoy's War and Peace and the siege of Russia by Napoleon, Grossman depicts the siege of Stalingrad by Hitler. Grossman narrates the epic from the perspectives of diverse players into whose lives the reader becomes immersed. The cast is vast and the R ...more
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm lucky to have been born in 1980 and not 1920. Because of this simple fact, I will never have to face an opposing army with a pistol pointed at me from behind, to die in machine-gun fire, or be standing in the wrong place when a bomb is dropped. I won't be killed in a gas chamber, my body searched for gold and burned, or be made to lie on a pile of dead bodies awaiting a bullet to my head, or be sent to prison camp, subjected to beatings and forced into hard labour. I will never have to endur ...more
Life and Fate. The perfect title for an astonishingly good book.

I am going to call Life and Fate a masterpiece. Yes it is as good as the reviews I have just read say it is. On a personal level it is a long time since I have had an emotional involvement with the characters of a novel. Les Misérables maybe? Though a large cast the life and fate of the protagonists at the time of the battle for Stalingrad made powerful and compelling reading.

My copy is the Vintage edition 2006. It has an introduc
May 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russian
Grossman tells the stories of Russian citizens and soldiers as they face the Nazi invasion and their own oppressive government in WWII. This long complex historical novel is often compared to War and Peace. Both intricately weave history and fiction, patriotism and decadence, philosophy and practicality. But Tolstoy’s nineteenth century perspective feels very different from Grossman’s twentieth. Noble purpose and grand drama give way to the desire to just survive amid a gritty reality. Tolstoy d ...more
Phew! Where to begin? I took a while to decide whether to mark this 4 or 5 stars. In the end I felt it was closer to 5 stars for its sheer ambition, epic scale, and for some of the most memorable passages in any novel I have ever read.

I hadn't really heard of Vasily Grossman until a couple of years ago, other than I had a vague notion he was a WWII Soviet propagandist. However, I listen to the radio a fair bit (my job involves a lot of driving) and a couple of years ago BBC radio serialised exce
Doug Bradshaw
Apr 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My Goodreads friend, Michael's review of this book is so outstanding that I decided to read this book. Here is a link to his five star review:

For me, this book was more of a four star read. As much as I admired the work and effort, reading it was a challenge for me. I was captivated now and then by some of the little things I found fascinating: the ridiculous psychological manipulations of Stalin and his minions as they force good people to sign fraudulen
Mikey B.
Dec 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This novel – at close to 900 pages – has some very poignant passages on both Nazi and Soviet atrocities of crimes against humanity. These are stunning and soulful.

Unfortunately I felt the book was marred by lengthy sections concerning Viktor Shtrum, his wife Lyudmila and his work cohort Sokolov. This was an extended examination of work-persecution and paranoia Soviet-Stalinist style. It became tedious and repetitive (reminding me of “Waiting for Godot”) particularly in Parts II and III.

I found t
Roman Clodia
Oct 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In every word the two sisters said, in all the sad, joyful, absurd or touching events they related, they could sense the presence of friends and family who had died but who would always be bound to them.

There's no question that the scope of this book is immense and Grossman does a magnificent job of keeping tags on his vast cast of characters: from Russian pilots and tank- men to snipers and the workers keeping the power station at Stalingrad working; from General Paulus and the Germans to H
May 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

There’re a lot of reviews about this book being an epic, and the 20th century answer to War and Peace. But for me it was just an incredibly engaging story, never have I felt this with Tolstoy’s work.
This novel is panoramic in scope, Grossman looks very wide, tries to give us the biggest slice of life he can.

It is about war and about civilians trying to survive in nazi concentration camps, GULAG, in evacuation, under occupation, on the battlefront. Stakes couldn’t be higher, risks are immense. B
An impressive masterpiece
No review can really do justice to this great book, but I'll try. For starters it is important to know that it is written by a convinced soviet-citizen, a journalist with fame in the Soviet-Union, back in the fourties and fifties of the past century. But Grossman also was a journalist that came to understand how horrible the excesses of stalinism had been. And he thought that after the reckoning of Stalin by Chroetsjev, the time was there to open up the "real existing so
I cannot rate this book.

I have listened to BBC Radio Four’s eight-hour dramatization of Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman. It is available at Audible. I cannot properly judge the book because I am unsure to what extent the prose has been altered in the audio version. I must make the assumption that parts have been cut.

I had difficulty keeping track of the story’s numerous characters. The German names were not difficult, but the Russian ones were. The sound effects all too often prevented me fro
Bob Brinkmeyer
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m no expert on literature of World War II, but Life and Fate must be one of the world’s greatest novels of that war. Frequently compared to War and Peace (particularly when combined with its recently-published prequel, Stalingrad), Life and Fate is epic in scope and depth, portraying a world of characters (thankfully there’s an 8-page appendix listing important characters to help you keep everybody straight) and numerous storylines, many of which in some way touch upon one extended family. The ...more
Inderjit Sanghera
The broad strokes of the novel, such as the trials and tribulations of the great scientist Victor Shtrum, whose character and flaws act as a mirror of the author’s own personality; the horrors of the concentration camp and slow creep of anti-Semitism;  the battle of Stalingrad and the dehumanising effects of war, as seen through the eyes of a panorama of characters, both real and fictional all intentionally echo Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’. Yet, like Tolstoy, there is a deeper meaning behind Gross ...more
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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

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