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A Writer At War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army 1941-1945 [Hardcover]

Vasily Grossman , Antony Beevor , Luba Vinogradova
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Sep 2005

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.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill Press; 1st edition (1 Sep 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184343055X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843430551
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 596,812 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'British readers are fortunate to have access to this honest and moving testimony'. -- Andrey Kurkov

‘a remarkable addition to the literature of 1941 - 45…a masterpiece of its kind’ -- Max Hastings, Sunday Telegraph

Book Description

A Writer at War offers the one outstanding eye-witness account of the war on the Eastern Front and perhaps the best descriptions ever of what Grossman called 'the ruthless truth of war'.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
82 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye-witeness accounts of momentous events 27 Oct 2006
Having read Anthony Beevor's "Berlin The Downfall", my eye was drawn to this book, being as it is, a significant historial source for the Russian experience of the German invasion and its aftermath.

Grossman was despatched by his editors to the locations of most of the key events in the Russian war with Germany, and the book is particularly interesting because it runs right through from the invasion, to the defeat of Germany.

Grossman describes countless small events which fill in the broad picture with illuminating detail. He records the capture of a Russian deserter who tried to sneak back home in full peasants rags, but had the misfortune to be recognised by troops of his own unit. He met with brave peasant women who gave their all in order to survive the terrible events that came upon them. There are many stories of Russian military officers and men, snatches of conversation, descriptions of their appearance and behaviour, which all fill out the picture of "Ivan" and show their loyalty to their homeland - and their ignorance of how utterly their political masters were failing them thought lack of foresight and planning.

The book benefits from a fine commentary by Beevor - the diaries are not just edited, they are interpreted for us by a great historian who sets them in context and explains the background to the events, so that the book builds up to a complete history of the Russian war.

I highly recommend this book which reveals a compassionate and humanistic man who recorded the lives of "everyman" on the Russian front and enables us to understand more about the events of those terrible years.
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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I kneel behind the soldier's trench 14 Feb 2006
By Leonard Fleisig TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
I walk mid shamble smear and stench, The dead I mourn." John Finley.
The Soviet journalist and author Vasily Grossman did more than kneel behind the soldier's trench. He lived with the Red Army from the catastrophic summer of 1941, through the defense of Moscow, the apocalyptic carnage of Stalingrad, the hard-won liberation of Soviet territory, the horrible discoveries of Nazi genocide in Madjanek and Treblinka, and the final bloody, triumphant march into Berlin. Anthony Beevor and Luba Vinogradova's "A Writer at War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army 1941-1945" is a marvelous examination of both "Grossman's war" and the war itself.
Vasily Grossman is something of a forgotten, unsung giant of Soviet literature. Born in Berdichev, Ukraine in 1905, Grossman rose to prominence and received national acclaim as a war reporter for Red Star, the official newspaper of the Red Army. Although never a member of the Communist Party, Grossman was, for most of his life, a strong supporter of the Soviet Union. Grossman's reporting was realistic (despite editing by Party censors) and was enormously popular among both high ranking officers and foot soldiers. After the war, Grossman returned to writing. His magnum opus, Life and Fate was not published in the USSR until 1988. When it was originally submitted for publication the Soviet authorities `arrested' the book and told Grossman that it would not be published for 200 years. Fortunately, a copy of the manuscript survived, was smuggled to Switzerland and published in Europe in 1980, fifteen years after Grossman's death. Life and Fate was based, in good part, on Grossman's wartime experiences.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time is blood 17 Jan 2010
This is such a superb collection of wartime observations, interviews and analyses of the sweeping panorama of war. Grossman was the voice of the Eastern Front. A 'heroic' writer for the Soviet War machine and a man of sensitivity, humanity and compassion. He takes us through the unrelenting horror of Stalingrad with an eye for small details, a view of the ordinary man always foremost in his mind, and with a moving patriotic love and compassion for his suffering comrades. The Russian wears white in war. Is expiated for his past sins with suffering. The Russian knows how to die in war, where he struggles to live in peacetime. We are taken through other battles- Kursk with a detailed eye for military movements in their contemporary and historical contexts. Grossman understands profoundly the historical importance of the experience he is going through. We reach Berdichev and the horror of genocide against the Jews which is worsted by his experience of Treblinka. Here is writing which is extraordinarily poignant for its simplicity, its candid observation and the internal anger that is so well disciplined and marshaled by his analytical writers mind that swells like a rising tide.
The book is a window into a world of so much horror and suffering, that is at times poetic, profoundly insightful and unrelentingly honest. Poignant moments are so many. The taking of Berlin is a tragic end where his compassion and humanity maintains its dignified head. Grossman feels and conveys human suffering so simply and yet so movingly and powerfully internalising so much pain, that his writing is an elegy to the gracefulness of suffering.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars An editor at war?
Grossman's note books, here loosely stringed together, are full of interesting detail. To enjoy the whole, however, one needs a good deal of detailed historical about Hitler's... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Berkeley
5.0 out of 5 stars writer on the front line
grossman was a jounalist who wrote from the front line's, he was very brave and wrote what he saw even if it was dangerous
to report the truth in soviet russia, millions died... Read more
Published 4 months ago by tommy
5.0 out of 5 stars Historically fascinating and fantastic follow up read after enjoying...
Brilliant book. Very moving at times. Provides insight into second world war and the massive contribution the Red Army made. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Mr Benjamin Nicholas
5.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing and honest
Grossman demonstrates that despite its obvious tyranny, the Stalinist monolith could never totally suffocate the human spirit. a remarkable read.
Published 8 months ago by Dr Brian Philip Parkin
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read
Engrossing Grossman, I could hardly put it down. Antony Beevor doesn't disappoint, writing with clarity, precision and sometimes humour. Read more
Published 12 months ago by GALT
5.0 out of 5 stars authorative
This gripping book is beautifully written and has the historical authority of immediate experience.A useful adjunct to the view of the professional historian.
Published 13 months ago by Dr. M. W. Forth
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully balanced writing...
I saw Vasily Grossman mentioned in a documentary on how the Soviets helped the Allied Forces in WWII, and the presenter quoted from his work from time to time so I was interested... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Mr. D. W. Mcconnell
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece!
Great piece of work. Very well written, articulated and precise.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this well researched historical record. Bravo!
Published 13 months ago by D. R. Edmond
5.0 out of 5 stars World WAR II history.
I have rather belatedly become engrossed in World War II history over the past few years and have built up an extensive library. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Dilys M Goldspink - her husband: D. Goldspink BSc, BA (Hons)
4.0 out of 5 stars A journalist's experiences at the front line
A frank view of the writings of Grossman who served as a journalist with the Red army fighting the German advance towards Moscow in WW11. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Mrs. J. Coomes
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