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An Armenian Sketchbook

An Armenian Sketchbook [Kindle Edition]

Vasily Grossman , Robert Chandler , Elizabeth Chandler
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

Few writers had to confront so many of the last century's mass tragedies as Vasily Grossman. He is likely to be remembered, above all, for the terrifying clarity with which he writes about the Shoah, the Battle of Stalingrad and the Terror Famine in the Ukraine.

An Armenian Sketchbook, however, shows us a very different Grossman; it is notable for its warmth, its sense of fun and for the benign humility that is always to be found in his writing.

After the 'arrest' - as Grossman always put it - of Life and Fate, Grossman took on the task of editing a literal Russian translation of a lengthy Armenian novel. The novel was of little interest to him, but he was glad of an excuse to travel to Armenia. This is his account of the two months he spent there.

It is by far the most personal and intimate of Grossman's works, with an air of absolute spontaneity, as though Grossman is simply chatting to the reader about his impressions of Armenia - its mountains, its ancient churches and its people.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 856 KB
  • Print Length: 192 pages
  • Publisher: MacLehose Press (4 July 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #102,834 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Observant Outsider's View of Armenia 13 July 2013
This is the English, hardback, edition of the Robert and Elizabeth Chandler translation of Vasily Grossman's Dobro Vam published in soft covers by NYRB (the New York Review of Books) in February 2013 (An Armenian Sketchbook (New York Review Books Classics)). The content is similar, but the NYRB edition does not have the 'Vasily Grossman and Hrachya Kochar' essay by Grossman scholar Yury Bit-Yunan that this one does.

Who was Hrachya Kochar? He was the Armenian author of a popular series of novels. With a view to a Russian edition of one of those novels, Grossman was appointed literary translator (a sort of editor, if you like). A literal translation of the novel into Russian had already been made; Grossman did not know Armenian.

So in late 1961, less than three years before his death from cancer, Grossman travelled to Armenia to meet Kochar and to see Armenia. Dobro Vam was his memoir recounting that visit; the title his rendering into Russian of the Armenian greeting, Barev dzez, 'All good to you'. The Chandlers' choice of title for this translation, An Armenian Sketchbook, is arguably better for being more descriptive. The book is relatively short and, chapter by chapter, sketches of the Armenian countryside, people, their homes and daily lives are exactly what we get.

An Armenian Sketchbook opens in the train from Moscow, which takes so long to reach Armenia's capital, Yerevan, Grossman's clean-shaven fellow-traveller acquires a black beard by the time they arrive. Grossman is impressed by the barrenness of Armenia as seen from the railway, the stone, rocks and scree.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Work of sublime genius. 13 Sep 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Anyone in need of a 'lift' should read this book. The final chapter alone, describing a peasant wedding , is enough to rescue anyone from the deepest depression. This a work of true genius.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Most Humane Of Writers 20 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
WHAT a beautiful, quirky little book this is. Maybe all the travel publishers should read it and learn how to give travellers a taste of how a place really is.
I had just finished Vasily Grossman's incredible epic Life And Fate, and was impressed by his humanity in the face of all he saw in WWII, but I wouldn't normally begin another book by the same author: the bookworm's palate needs variety.
This book, however, couldn't be more different, in size, subject matter, style, and as I was planning a trip to Armenia at the time, I opened it.
Like Life And Fate, I simply found I couldn't put it down.
It's a wonderful mixture of the throwaway and profound, self-effacement and complete honesty.
His descriptions of getting drunk, of being unimpressed by religious chiefs and thoroughly humbled by peasants, are vivid and, somehow, very modern.
He would have been a great writer in any era, and a fascinating man to have a drink with.
You owe yourself a treat, and you should get your hands on this brilliant book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Journey of discovery 30 July 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Grossman made an extended visit to Armenia to translate a book. In the process he fell in love with the country and people. This is a vivid and moving account which I would recommend to any lover of good writing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful sense of common humanity 30 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Grossman went to Armenia when distressed by the arrest of Life and Fate and the breaking up of his marriage. He went as a 'translator' who did not know anything of the language (!) and he did not seem to make friends with the writer and other intellectuals he worked with. This gives the narrative a special charm because he is rather isolated, responds reflectively to the landscape (he is very funny about how stony the whole country is) and mixes with the poor peasants. There are rambling reflections on such subjects as the persistence of Paganism in the Armenian version of Christianity, and a fascinating chapter of reflections on a variety of motivations for suicide. It all ends with a glorious set-piece wedding amongst the peasants in which there is a most moving sense of reciprocity between the illiterate Armenians who had suffered genocide in 1915 and Hitler's invasion in the forties, and their Jewish visitor Grossman.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! 16 Oct 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book. There are lots of funny little stories about encounters and journeys which both say something about human nature and illustrate life in 1960's Armenia. Any student of human nature will enjoy this book.
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