Vasily Grossman's masterpiece Life and Fate is rated by many as the greatest Russian novel of the twentieth century. Among its admirers is Antony Beevor, the bestselling author of Stalingrad and Berlin.
A Writer at War is based on the notebooks in which Grossman gathered his raw material. It depicts as never before the crushing conditions on the Eastern Front and the lives and deaths of infantrymen, tank drivers, pilots, snipers and civilians alike.
Deemed unfit for service when the Germans invaded in 1941, Grossman became a special correspondent for Red Star, the Red Army newspaper. A portly novelist in his mid-thirties with no military experience, he was given a uniform and hastily taught to use a pistol. Remarkably, he spent three of the following four years at the front observing with a writer's eye the most pitiless fighting ever known.
Grossman witnessed almost all the major events on the Eastern Front: the appalling defeats and desperate retreats of 1941, the defence of Moscow and fighting in the Ukraine. In August 1942 he was posted to Stalingrad where he remained during four months of brutal street-fighting. He was present at the battle of Kursk, the largest tank engagement in history, and, as the Red Army advanced, he reached Berdichev where his worst fears for his mother and other relations were confirmed. A Jew himself, he undertook the faithful recording of Holocaust atrocities as their extent dawned. His supremely powerful report 'The Hell of Treblinka' was used in evidence at the Nuremberg tribunal.