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Everything Flows (New York Review Books Classics) [Paperback]

Vasily Grossman , Robert Chandler , Elizabeth Chandler
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 2009 New York Review Books Classics
A New York Review Books Original

Everything Flows is Vasily Grossman’s final testament, written after the Soviet authorities suppressed his masterpiece, Life and Fate. The main story is simple: released after thirty years in the Soviet camps, Ivan Grigoryevich must struggle to find a place for himself in an unfamiliar world. But in a novel that seeks to take in the whole tragedy of Soviet history, Ivan’s story is only one among many. Thus we also hear about Ivan’s cousin, Nikolay, a scientist who never let his conscience interfere with his career, and Pinegin, the informer who got Ivan sent to the camps. Then a brilliant short play interrupts the narrative: a series of informers steps forward, each making excuses for the inexcusable things that he did—inexcusable and yet, the informers plead, in Stalinist Russia understandable, almost unavoidable. And at the core of the book, we find the story of Anna Sergeyevna, Ivan’s lover, who tells about her eager involvement as an activist in the Terror famine of 1932–33, which led to the deaths of three to five million Ukrainian peasants. Here Everything Flows attains an unbearable lucidity comparable to the last cantos of Dante’s Inferno.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 253 pages
  • Publisher: New York Review of Books (Dec 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590173287
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590173282
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 12.7 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,014,529 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By Leonard Fleisig TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
I shared all this with my own people
There, where misfortune had abandoned us."
Anna Akhmatova, "Requiem"

If Life and Fate may rightfully be seen as Vasily Grossman's masterpiece, his Everything Flows may rightfully be seen as his testament, a requiem if you will not only for his own life but for the lives of those who lived in his time and place.

"Everything Flows" tells a simple, yet emotionally deep and politically nuanced tale. The story begins with the 1957 return to Moscow of Ivan Grigoryevich after 30 years of forced labor in the Gulag. 1957 marked the year, following Khrushchev's denunciation of the excesses of Stalin, in which the tide of prisoners returning from the Gulag reached its peak. He arrives at the Moscow flat of his cousin Nikolay. Nikolay, a scientist with less than stellar skills, has reached some measure of success at the laboratory through dint of being a survivor. The meeting in the flat is entirely unsatisfactory for both parties. Grossman paints a vivid picture of Nikolay, more than a bit jealous that Ivan's light had always shone brighter than his own prior to Ivan's arrest. Nikolay suffers from the guilt of one who was not arrested and who is painfully aware of the choices he made to keep from being arrested. It seems clear that Ivan represents a mirror into which Nikolay can see only his own hollow reflection.

Ivan leaves Moscow for his old city of Leningrad, the place where he was first arrested in 1927. By chance, he runs into the person, Pinegin, whose denunciation placed him in jail in the first place. Once again, Ivan is a mirror and Pinegin is horrified at what he is faced with, what he has buried for thirty years.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not really a novel. 9 Aug 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It would be a mistake for anyone who has read 'Life and Fate' to expect something similar from this book, but don't be put off. It is worth reading for the chapter on the famine alone. The rest of the book is slight, and some of the philosophical writing is distinctly sub-Dostoevsky. Grossman didn't write much so you have to read it anyway.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
70 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Not under foreign skies, Nor under foreign wings protected 4 Dec 2009
By Leonard Fleisig - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I shared all this with my own people
There, where misfortune had abandoned us."
Anna Akhmatova's Requiem

If Life and Fate (New York Review Books Classics) may rightfully be seen as Vasily Grossman's masterpiece, his Everything Flows may rightfully be seen as his testament, a requiem if you will not only for his own life but for the lives of those who lived in his time and place.

"Everything Flows" tells a simple, yet emotionally deep and politically nuanced tale. The story begins with the 1957 return to Moscow of Ivan Grigoryevich after 30 years of forced labor in the Gulag. 1957 marked the year, following Khrushchev's denunciation of the excesses of Stalin, in which the tide of prisoners returning from the Gulag reached its peak. He arrives at the Moscow flat of his cousin Nikolay. Nikolay, a scientist with less than stellar skills, has reached some measure of success at the laboratory through dint of being a survivor. The meeting in the flat is entirely unsatisfactory for both parties. Grossman paints a vivid picture of Nikolay, more than a bit jealous that Ivan's light had always shone brighter than his own prior to Ivan's arrest. Nikolay suffers from the guilt of one who was not arrested and who is painfully aware of the choices he made to keep from being arrested. It seems clear that Ivan represents a mirror into which Nikolay can see only his own hollow reflection.

Ivan leaves Moscow for his old city of Leningrad, the place where he was first arrested in 1927. By chance, he runs into the person, Pinegin, whose denunciation placed him in jail in the first place. Once again, Ivan is a mirror and Pinegin is horrified at what he is faced with, what he has buried for thirty years. Ironically, and to great effect, we see Pinegin's horror recede once he settles down to a sumptuous lunch at a restaurant reserved for foreigners and party officials. Ivan does not know about the denunciation and Grossman here embarks on a discourse on the different types and forms of denunciation available to the Soviet citizen. It is a remarkable discourse that shows how many different ways there are to participate in a purge and how many ways there are to legitimize ones participation and/or acquiescence.

From Leningrad Ivan travels to a southern industrial city where he finds work and eventually finds a deep and satisfying love in the person of his landlady Anna. The centerpiece of that relationship is the brutal honesty involved; Anna spends a night detailing her role in the pointless, needless famine that swept the Ukraine in 1932-1933. It is an account made even more chilling by the straightforward, confessional nature of its telling. But it is also redemptive and shines a light on what might be called Grossman's vision that love and freedom are two goals, not mutually exclusive, that an honest accounting of our lives forms the essence of our shared humanity.

The above summary does not do justice to the power of Grossman's prose or to the literary and political importance of the work. Since the death of Stalin, the Soviet line had remained relatively firm - Stalin's excesses were the product of a disturbed mind that represented a horrible deviation from the theory and principles of Leninism. The USSR's best path was the one that returned it to the path created by Lenin. Khrushchev first enunciated this line. Even Gorbachev's perestroika was based on the theory that a return to first-principles, i.e. Leninism, would save the USSR from destruction.

Grossman, prophetically, did not buy into this line and Everything Flows'last chapters are notable for a remarkable attack not only on Stalin but on Lenin and Lenin's anti-democratic tendencies that had more in common with Ivan the Terrible than the principles of revolutionary democracy. "All the triumphs of Party and State were bound up with the name of Lenin. But all the cruelty inflicted on the nation also lay - tragically - on Lenin's shoulders." Grossman may have been the first to make this leap and he paid the price for making that leap. (This involves the suppression of his Life & Fate and Everything Flows.) Grossman's explicit claim that Stalin was not a deviationist from Leninism but its natural-born progeny was profoundly subversive and there is no doubt in my mind that it was this difference that explains why, under Khruschev's 'thaw', that One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was publishe while Life and Fate and Everything Flows was banned.

Despite the horrors set out, quietly and without excess rhetoric, Grossman returns to a somewhat optimistic vision of mans search for freedom: "No matter how mighty the empire, all this is only mist and fog and, as such, will be blown away. Only one true force remains; only one true force continues to evolve and live; and this force is liberty. To a man, to live means to be free."

Robert Chandler's translation of Everything Flows is exquisite. He brings the same clarity and emotional investment in Grossman's work that he brought to his prize-winning translations of Platonov and Hamid Ismailov's The Railway. In short, Everything Flows is a treasure and I cannot recommend this book highly enough. L. Fleisig
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Small Masterpiece 25 Jan 2010
By S. Parry - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I just finished "Everything Flows." It is one of literature's great gifts, one of the most insightful and moving books I have ever read. In a way, it is both uplifting and humbling at the same time. I just cannot say enough about the "testament" that this book is. Through Grossman's work, we, in some small way, can bear witness to an entire, tragic era.

I will not repeat the details of Leonard Fleisig's outstanding and astute review of "Everything Flows," but simply add that this short book is a novella with connected essays that somehow reveals both the nature of the individual characters and of a whole society under siege. It is beautifully written and translated, and with great economy of style, Ivan and the other characters come alive and we seem to enter their inner beings.

I have read a great deal about the Soviet experience, including Grossman's "Life and Fate" and Simon Sebag Montefiore's biography of Stalin and Stephen Cohen's one on Bukharin as well as the wonderful novels of Victor Serge. I highly recommend them all, but if you have to read one book about the Soviet tragedy, read "Everything Flows."

I am so grateful to the New York Review of Books for retrieving so many lost treasures from the past.
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gift from the Past--Read it in the Present 4 Dec 2009
By Penelope V. Burt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A man returns from thirty years in the Gulag. He meets up with his cousin, who has done well, with the man who denounced him, with a woman--his landlady--who becomes his lover and tells him about her experiences, her complicity in the Ukrainian terror famine (a devastating chapter). The man meditates on the nature of Russia and the totalitarian state. This magnificent novel does not really have a plot, in the sense of a narrative with a beginning, middle, and end where everything gets tied up in a satisfactory knot. As the very title indicates, everything flows and keeps on flowing. Nor will you find here Solzhenitsyn's savage indignation, but at the same time, in reading Grossman's novel you don't get off the hook by feeling that any of these people are so alien to you or to what you might have done or not done under similar circumstances. And as Chandler so beautifully puts it in his introduction, "Any story, truly told and truly listened to, can become a gift."
The book includes an introduction, notes, a chronology--all very helpful. There is a previous translation of this novel (under the title Forever Flowing), which Chandler's version totally supersedes.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courageous portrait of human complexity 1 Aug 2010
By Bryan Byrd - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
It's difficult for me to write about a moving piece of literature that doesn't resort to cheap hyperbole, expecially when all the overused descriptions and praises seem to fit. Yet 'Everything Flows' is a novel that truly does stand head and shoulders above its peers; quietly though, with little fanfare - befitting the shape and form of its content. Reminiscent of Taduesz Borowski's 'This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen' in its austere insights into human behavior, 'Everything Flows' takes Borowski's chilling observations one step further and seeks to locate the slumbering humanity within the inhuman chaos of terror amd cruelty. Where Borowski mercilessly lacerates us with the horror of the concentration camp, where fear stamps out everything human, Vasily Grossman describes the injustice of the gulag and of the State, and forgivingly looks for the redeemable within the worst of us.

Unfinished at the time of Grossman's death, 'Everything Flows' is the story of Ivan Grigoryevich, a man returning to Moscow after thirty years in a labor camp. He is released during Krushchev's 'thaw', and though the novel begins with Ivan's attempt to reintegrate into the world, as it progresses he transforms into a sort of reflective leitmotiv, one in which all segments of Soviet society can plainly see themselves. His journey toward resolution, often interupted by authorial interludes, is an examination of a people reared by and brought to heel by the State - they are complicit and victim all at once, and Grossman suggests temperance rather than recrimination.

Grossman is not rhetorical nor sentimental, but I find it difficult not to be affected by his sparse lyricism and plain honesty. This is a work that courageously appreciates the complexity of all of us, instead of repeating safe illusions that conceal our inner workings. That, to me, is a testament to the same power that sustains Ivan through the camps and even through his release - an undaunted faith in freedom. Highly recommended.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More Intellectual Analysis Than Captivating Storytelling 10 Jan 2011
By Steven M. Anthony - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having read Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate, and his collection of short stories and essays in The Road, I was resolved to find and read more of his work, hence my purchase of Everything Flows. This work, reputedly unfinished at the time of his death is written in a slightly different style than his other books.

In Everything Flows, Grossman pens an indictment on Soviet style Communism, most jarringly its complete depersonalization and absence of freedom. Whereas his earlier work did so through fictionalized short stories (and his magnum opus Life and Fate), this work is a more literary and intellectual analysis of Lenin's movement and Stalin's progression. As a result, I found it less captivating. I would not say, however, that it is without feeling.

Much as he did in his landmark essay "The Hell of Treblinka", Grossman puts a human face on the Ukrainian Terror Famine of the early 1930s, an event not commonly known, but equal in scope to the Holocaust and the Killing Fields of Pol Pot's Cambodia. Stalin and his henchmen oversaw a process of deportation of Ukrainian kulaks (peasant farmers), collectivization and confiscation of all foodstuffs. Thus it was that in one of the most fertile regions on Earth, in the absence of epidemic or drought, from 4-6 million people starved to death. It is Grossman's contention that this was not an error in planning or a failure in communication, but a cold blooded genocide of what Stalin considered some of his least faithful followers.

I found parts of this relatively short work to be riveting. However, long sections bogged down in intellectual analysis which quite literally lost me. It is certainly worthwhile if for no other reason than its treatment of the Terror Famine.
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