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Life And Fate [Paperback]

Vasily Grossman , Robert Chandler
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)

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Book Description

20 July 1995
A novel centred around the Battle of Stalingrad.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 880 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill Press; New edition edition (20 July 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860460194
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860460197
  • Product Dimensions: 21.2 x 13.4 x 5.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 456,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"One of the greatest masterpieces of the twentieth century" (Times Literary Supplement)

"It is only a matter of time before Grossman is acknowledged as one of the great writers of the 20th century... Life and Fate is a book that demands to be talked about" (Guardian)

"One of the finest Russian novels of the 20th century" (Daily Telegraph)

"Vasily Grossman's novel is burnt in my memory, not only by its huge canvas, its meditation on tyranny, and its dazzling description of war, but also because this is the novel that made me cry - not just a few leaked tears, but a full-scale sobbing episode - in Montpellier airport... Grossman lost his mother in a concentration camp. In Life and Fate, he writes with tenderness, and pain, not only of that experience but of what it is like to survive tyranny. A classic indeed" (Gillian Slovo Independent)

"One of the great writers of the last century" (Observer) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

The greatest Russian novel of the twentieth century. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
58 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Russian novel of the Soviet era 30 Mar 2007
This is a monumental novel, worthy of the description that has sometimes been applied to it of being the twentieth century's War and Peace. It details a range of suffering and cruelties, both large and petty, on all sides. Many of the day to day details of Stalinism are here: the constant presence of denunciations and the way small events can make or break someone's life, such as the central character of Viktor Shtrum falling due to his contacts with non-Russian scientists and then rising after a telephone call from Stalin praising his work, or Krymov being arrested and beaten up despite his years of loyal service and belief in the cause. Other particularly memorable sequences include the gas chamber scenes and the dialogue between a Nazi officer and Soviet prisoner Mostovskoy as the former tries and nearly succeeds in convincing his captive that Nazism and Communism are marching in the same direction.

I generally find descriptions of actual battle scenes fairly tedious to read, but they are there as they should be and due attention is paid to the significance of Stalingrad as the turning point in leading to the defeat of Nazism.

From the Soviet regime's point of view it is hardly surprising Suslov told Grossman it could not be published for 200 years as it goes well beyond criticism of Stalin and destroys the whole raison d'etre of the Soviet regime. In this respect it goes beyond the much better known Doktor Zhivago, an excellent novel but probably more famous in the West very largely because of the superb David Lean film. For me, Life and Fate tops Pasternak's novel as the best Russian novel of the Soviet era.
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240 of 244 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece 11 Nov 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was always of the view that, thanks to the PhD industry, there weren’t any neglected masterpieces out there. Life and Fate has proved me wrong. What I loved about this book was its scale, its ambition, and its earnestness. Grossman has something of passionate importance to tell the world. The book could just as easily have been entitled Good and Evil, Freedom and Slavery, or War and Peace.
Despite the book’s settings - German concentration and Russian labour camps, the Lubyanka, Stalingrad - it’s not fundamentally grim. Grossman is as interested in the nature of Good as he is of Evil. A 50 year old woman doctor ‘adopts’ a small boy as the doors of the gas chamber shut. The commander of a tank battalion spares his men by holding fire for ten minutes with Stalin breathing down his neck.. A Russian woman comforts a dying German soldier.
Grossman believed in the individual and the individual’s essential humanity. This is easy to say and seems sententious when made written down but he also believes in literature with a capital L. The task he sets himself is to create characters and settings that demonstrate this humanity.
Fabulous stuff. Be warned. Clever postmodernist novels are going to look pretty trivial after this.
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143 of 146 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional - check out the last pages first 7 Feb 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I can't really add much to the previous reviews, as this is an exceptional novel and truely gripping all the way through (no mean feat for nearly 900 pages). If you're familiar with other Grossman writings (e.g. his diaries) then you can see that many of the characters and situations are taken from real experiences and people that he encountered during his war reporting. To me that makes it an even better read, as whilst a novel, it is based soundly on real life.
One tip, check out the character index at the back of the book, before you start reading. Unless you're good with Russian names, it can be a bit hard to follow at first. The index (which I only discovered three quarters of the way though) really helps with identifying who is who.
No question that this is a five star book.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This is one of the finest books I have translated, a novel of extraordinary depth. Impounded by the KGB and first published twenty years after the author's death, the novel provides a remarkably complete picture of Stalin's Russia. Grossman writes with equal authority about front-line soldiers, the Russian and German high commands, Russian and German concentration camps, academic life and the life of ordinary civilians. The chapters dealing with the holocaust are a moving lament for the whole of European Jewry. One of the great realistic novels of the century. Grossman's gifts are his powers of observation and his compassion.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life and Fate 6 July 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This really is a remarkable book, billed as the 20C War and Peace it is set against the siege of Stalingrad in 1941. This edition comes with a helpful introduction by Linda Grant. In many ways the novel is grim. It describes life in German concentration camps and the lead up to the gas chamber in poignant detail. Grossman draws the parallel between the German camps and Russian labour camps set up to deal with dissidents, criminals and Jews. There is little difference between communism and fascism. We read about the torture in the Lubyanka, about the rise and fall and rise again of a Jewish scientist in Russia. There are many examples of how the whims of life and fate change people. One minute, a party official has power over his peers, the next he is interrogated and incarcerated himself, because someone, anyone it seems, has denounced him as an enemy of the people.

There are stories of grasping, selfish individuals who are corrupted by the state, interspersed with stories of great individual courage and defiance. There is the tank corps commander who delays his attack for a few minutes to protect his men and make victory more likely. He is assured enough to stand against the orders of his commanders, but will he too be denounced and reduced? Will he share a similar fate to the manager of the power station who sticks to his post whilst under siege for all but the last day when the battle is finally won?

The scope of the work is immense, but it is very readable. Perhaps it could have benefitted from tighter editing, but the vast canvas gives it credibility and depth. It is essentially about the life and fate of people against the huge power of the state. Many die. Many are wasted.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This thing of wonder......
Hard to add anything original to the existing chorisof praise for this magnificent book. It left me in awe of Grossman's life, of his talent, of his perseverance, of his ability to... Read more
Published 1 month ago by David Winsor
5.0 out of 5 stars Tolstoy or Solzhenitsyn
A stunning piece of work.
War and Peace is a fair comparison. A monumental work following so many characters through the struggles from Stalingrad onwards. Read more
Published 2 months ago by andyclaret
5.0 out of 5 stars Challenging
At over 850 pages and and over 120 chapters, the challenges include length, as well as content. However for a persistent and slow reader like myself this is a rewarding and moving... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Late Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Grossman covers the tragedies and uplifting experiences through...
Fascinating insight into life and times during the Great Patriotic war. Not only humanises but dehumanises many of my pre conceived ideas of that conflict which ,thankfully ,I... Read more
Published 3 months ago by trapperboblet
5.0 out of 5 stars Comparable with War And Peace? Absolutely.
What an incredible man, who can write convincingly about tank battles, old ladies' emotional turmoil, little children's fantasies, middle-aged men's desperate desire not to be... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Craig Campbell
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book....
I loved this book. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants a good read.
Distressing in some places...genuinely shocking, but well worth the effort.
Published 3 months ago by Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading for those who want to discover the macro and micro...
The book was published posthumostly and there are repetitions and scope for editing. Accused of plain language nevertheless Grossman's writing sings.
Published 4 months ago by Thalia J Ratcliffe
5.0 out of 5 stars totally engrossing
A book I will always remember. Very long and quite confusing at the beginning until I got my head around the long Russian names, this novel gives a fascinating account of the... Read more
Published 5 months ago by V. Routh
4.0 out of 5 stars It's brilliant but I just couldnt finish it
I don't know what the original Russian text is like but this translation is just brilliant. Some of the writing is so good it makes you hold your breath. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Garth Horigan
5.0 out of 5 stars A work of genius
One of the most important books of the twentieth century. Grossman is a powerful writer, a man of immense humanity. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Carolyn Devine
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