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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Collection, 13 Oct 2010
By 
T. R. Cowdret "Tommy C" (Nottingham England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Road: Short Fiction and Essays (Hardcover)
Grossman is, I think, most famous for his epic novel Life and Fate. This collection brings together fiction and journalism spanning the writer's whole career, from early stories like 'A Young Woman and an Old Woman' which seem to have touches of socialist realism, to much more sensitive and subtle later works like 'Mama', 'The Dog' and the story from which the collection takes its title. The full text of Grossman's 'The Hell of Treblinka' (famous as one of the first pieces of journalism about the Nazi death camps) is also translated here. I had only previously experienced the latter in Beevor's 'A Writer at War' and, to re-read it here in its unexpurgated version was incredibly affecting and upsetting.
It's a fantastic collection of writing by an insightful, brave and bold writer. Chandler and his colleauges (the translators and editors of this edition) have previously worked on other Grossman books (the aforementioned Life and Fate and, earlier this year, Grossman's harrowing explanation of the grand sweep of Soviet history Everything Flows), as well as novels and prose by Grossman's contemporary and friend Platonov. The accompanying notes and appendices are excellent and the care and understanding taken over the production of the volume are impressive.
It seems to me that Grossman should be read more widely - this volume would be a great place for new readers to start. Highly recommended.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does the road wind uphill all the way? Yes, to the very end., 13 Oct 2010
By 
Leonard Fleisig "Len" (Virginia Beach, Virginia) - See all my reviews
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Christina Georgina Rossetti.

Every now and again I come across a passage in a book that I immediately perceive to be the `emotional core' of the book. In the case of "The Road", a collection of stories and other writings by Vasily Grossman, I came across a passage that I thought served not as the `core' of the book but, rather, one that, instead, placed a bookmark on the beginning of the road that Grossman travelled as a writer and as a man.

The passage is found in "The Hell of Treblinka". Grossman, who was likely the first reporter to view and write about the horrors of the Nazi death camps, wrote this piece shortly after the liberation of Treblinka. It is a stunning piece of writing. Toward the end of the article, Grossman tries to make sense of things. He asks: "A particular kind of State does not appear out of nowhere. What engenders a particular regime is the material and ideological relations existing among a country's citizens. It is to these material and ideological relations that we need to devote serious thought; the nature of these relations is what should appall us."

When Grossman wrote this article, in September 1944 it was clear that his focus was solely on the Nazi death machine and the active and passive acceptance of that regime by Germany's own citizens. But, by the end of his life Grossman's focus evolved. In "The Hell of Treblinka" he looked at the material and ideological relations existing amongst the citizens of other countries, specifically Germany. By the time he wrote Life And Fate and Everything Flows Grossman's focus had turned inward, toward his own country and people. Neither book was published during Grossman's lifetime because he had the audacity to suggest that Stalinism and Hitlerism were but two sides of the same coin. He turned his focus toward the idea of freedom and to the entirely subversive (in the context of the USSR) concept that any ruler, be it Stalin, Lenin, or Hitler, who deprived people of freedom and dignity bore more similarities to each other than differences. His statement in Everything Flows that: "[n]o 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" stands as a testament to the place that Grossman's road led him.

For me, the brilliance of the short stories and articles set out in "The Road" lies in the fact that they allow the reader to follow Grossman as he set out on his literary and lifes journey. As edited and translated by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler, Grossman's writings are set out in chronological order. We see his earliest writings from the 1930s. Grossman's writing style was still a work in progress and you can see him work on finding a style that was at once his own but still acceptable to the apparatchiks that controlled and approved all writings for publication. The second part, those stories and articles set during the War, see Grossman truly emerge. As set out on the excellent introductions to each section and the meticulous end notes written by the Chandlers, the war and the Shoah were searing experiences for Grossman. Apart from his coverage of the horrors of Stalingrad and Treblinka, Grossman learned that his mother had been murdered in the early months of the war in her home town of Berdichev. Finally, we see his post war stories in the 50s and early 60s before his death.

By the time we get to those later stories, particularly "The Road" and "The Dog", we begin to see the themes of life, fate, and freedom mature and ripen. The Russian poet Nadezhda Mandelstam once wrote that "a person with inner freedom, memory, and fear is that reed, that twig that changes the direction of a rushing river." It seems to me, after reading this book that Grossman became absorbed with that sense of inner freedom, the ability of individuals to live as free men and women even in a society that denies them their outer freedom.

In summary, Vasily Grossman's The Road is a book that serves as a testament to a man who put his life and fate into his writing and left a body of work behind that I hope will get as much exposure as possible. I would add that this compilation does stand alone, due in no small part to the editing and notes provided by the Chandlers, and can be enjoyed even if you have not read Life and Fate or Everything Flows. However, having read those books first really did enable me to more fully appreciate the writings in The Road. I can only recommend all of Grossman's work and suggest that they may be as absorbing for you as they have been for me.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does the road wind uphill all the way? Yes, to the very end., 15 Oct 2010
By 
Leonard Fleisig "Len" (Virginia Beach, Virginia) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Road: Short Fiction and Essays (Hardcover)
Christina Georgina Rossetti.

Every now and again I come across a passage in a book that I immediately perceive to be the `emotional core' of the book. In the case of "The Road", a collection of stories and other writings by Vasily Grossman, I came across a passage that I thought served not as the `core' of the book but, rather, one that, instead, placed a bookmark on the beginning of the road that Grossman travelled as a writer and as a man.

The passage is found in "The Hell of Treblinka". Grossman, who was likely the first reporter to view and write about the horrors of the Nazi death camps, wrote this piece shortly after the liberation of Treblinka. It is a stunning piece of writing. Toward the end of the article, Grossman tries to make sense of things. He asks: "A particular kind of State does not appear out of nowhere. What engenders a particular regime is the material and ideological relations existing among a country's citizens. It is to these material and ideological relations that we need to devote serious thought; the nature of these relations is what should appall us."

When Grossman wrote this article, in September 1944 it was clear that his focus was solely on the Nazi death machine and the active and passive acceptance of that regime by Germany's own citizens. But, by the end of his life Grossman's focus evolved. In "The Hell of Treblinka" he looked at the material and ideological relations existing amongst the citizens of other countries, specifically Germany. By the time he wrote Life And Fate and Everything Flows Grossman's focus had turned inward, toward his own country and people. Neither book was published during Grossman's lifetime because he had the audacity to suggest that Stalinism and Hitlerism were but two sides of the same coin. He turned his focus toward the idea of freedom and to the entirely subversive (in the context of the USSR) concept that any ruler, be it Stalin, Lenin, or Hitler, who deprived people of freedom and dignity bore more similarities to each other than differences. His statement in Everything Flows that: "[n]o 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" stands as a testament to the place that Grossman's road led him.

For me, the brilliance of the short stories and articles set out in "The Road" lies in the fact that they allow the reader to follow Grossman as he set out on his literary and lifes journey. As edited and translated by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler, Grossman's writings are set out in chronological order. We see his earliest writings from the 1930s. Grossman's writing style was still a work in progress and you can see him work on finding a style that was at once his own but still acceptable to the apparatchiks that controlled and approved all writings for publication. The second part, those stories and articles set during the War, see Grossman truly emerge. As set out on the excellent introductions to each section and the meticulous end notes written by the Chandlers, the war and the Shoah were searing experiences for Grossman. Apart from his coverage of the horrors of Stalingrad and Treblinka, Grossman learned that his mother had been murdered in the early months of the war in her home town of Berdichev. Finally, we see his post war stories in the 50s and early 60s before his death.

By the time we get to those later stories, particularly "The Road" and "The Dog", we begin to see the themes of life, fate, and freedom mature and ripen. The Russian poet Nadezhda Mandelstam once wrote that "a person with inner freedom, memory, and fear is that reed, that twig that changes the direction of a rushing river." It seems to me, after reading this book that Grossman became absorbed with that sense of inner freedom, the ability of individuals to live as free men and women even in a society that denies them their outer freedom.

In summary, Vasily Grossman's The Road is a book that serves as a testament to a man who put his life and fate into his writing and left a body of work behind that I hope will get as much exposure as possible. I would add that this compilation does stand alone, due in no small part to the editing and notes provided by the Chandlers, and can be enjoyed even if you have not read Life and Fate or Everything Flows. However, having read those books first really did enable me to more fully appreciate the writings in The Road. I can only recommend all of Grossman's work and suggest that they may be as absorbing for you as they have been for me.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Soviet Union's Most Turbulent Years, 3 Jan 2011
By 
Lost John (Devon, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Road: Short Fiction and Essays (Hardcover)
Robert Chandler, the translator to whom (with his wife and a number of collaborators) most readers of Grossman's work in English are indebted, comments in this volume, `Grossman's (prose) is perhaps as close to journalism as great prose can be whilst remaining great prose.' All the items selected by the Chandlers for this collection attest to the truth of that.

Their selection consists of 11 stories, three essays and two posthumous letters to Grossman's mother. Yekaterina Savelievna Grossman was one of 12,000 Jews shot at Berdychiv, Ukraine, on 15th September 1941, a trauma that Grossman never fully came to terms with. With a little help provided by Robert Chandler's notes, the letters speak for themselves. The stories range from descriptions of the experience of Nazi-occupation of residents of Ukrainian and Russian towns; through that of the adoptive daughter of the head of the NKVD; to empathetic insights into the experiences of an Italian mule that finds itself (in the title story, The Road) hauling a munitions wagon to Stalingrad, and of the second dog in space (the first to survive the experience), a stray picked-up from the streets. The essays are Grossman's quickly-assembled 1944 picture of the killing facilities at Treblinka (at that time newly discovered by Soviet troops), a reflective piece on the life and varied functions of Moscow's cemeteries, and an appreciation of Raphael's Sistine Madonna.

It is customary for translated works to come with an introduction and notes. In this case the Chandlers go considerably further, providing a full picture of Grossman's life, of the historical background - his life coincided with the most turbulent years of the Soviet period - and a basic critique of the works included. For those interested in learning yet more, they provide many references and a bibliography.

Readers not previously familiar with the workings of the Nazi death factories and the scale of the slaughter will be shocked by Grossman's piece on Treblinka, not because he is in any way sensational or prurient, but because of the sheer factual horror. Five of the stories also deal with Nazi occupation or war. The picture progressively built of life in the Soviet Union may also surprise in its way - not least the unremarked acceptance of features such as communal living, house-management and workplace committees, and that family members and colleagues could be peremptorily removed from the community, even from life. Also the smallness of the world of the Moscow elite, with top writers and other artists meeting at the salon of the wife of Nikolai Yezhov, until 1938 Stalin's principal murderer, and occasionally encountering exalted party officials, even Stalin himself. In the end, the most lasting impression is perhaps of the rootlessness of Soviet life - with even those individuals who managed to avoid the hurricane of the state's disfavour driven across town or the continent by the wind of circumstance - and yet it was always possible to write a letter of protest or entreaty to Yezhov, Stalin, or Khrushchev and sometimes get a response, if not actually a reply.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A traumatic journey, 17 Dec 2010
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Vasily Grossman's journalism is direct and does not spare the reader. Even taken by itself, his description of Treblinka - based on his being with the Red army unit who liberated the camp plus many interviews with former inmates - makes this book worth reading.

For a man whose mother had been liquidated by Himmler's einsatzgruppen earlier in the war his writing maintains an extraordinary unblinking objectivity.

Nor is his sorrowful enquiry directed in only one direction: there is much interesting, and even intimate, detail about the senior figures caught up in (or perpetrating) Stalin's purges.

Some of his short fictional stories seem a little trite, but perhaps this is because they were published under a regime where real events had to be cloaked in allegory.

Overall a disturbing window on the 1930s and 40s through Russian eyes.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A human view of live's tragedies., 1 Dec 2010
By 
james gardiner (edinburgh United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I recently discovered the work of Vasily Grossman after reading Antony Beevor's history of the fall of Berlin in WW2
and a newspaper article about him.
Grossman was a writer and journalist of Ukranian Jewish background (1905-1964). The Road is a collection of his journalistic and literary writings. His profound and harrowing insight into the Russia and Soviet Union of his lifetime is presented here with all its hope,idealism and tragedy. He was a reporter for the Red Army and present at the liberation of Treblinka. He writes of small village life and the pity of war and fate. The death of his mother in a Nazi extermination camp was to haunt him the rest of his life.
In the end he survived Stalin's terror and later persecution and was never a dupe of the system or its ideals. Yet despite all, his humanity was never dimmed. We are left with the portrait of a man of nobility - a possessor of Wordworth's "unconquerable mind".
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good view of recent history, 12 Jan 2011
By 
C. L. Scrivens (manchester) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Road: Short Fiction and Essays (Hardcover)
This was a well presented book with an account true to his observations. Hard to believe that these things happened in our lifetime.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The profound humanity of Grossman shines through all he writes., 21 Nov 2013
By 
George Marsh (Southsea United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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The early short stories are beautiful.
The report Grossman wrote when the Red Army first entered the Treblinka extermination camp and he was the first writer to collect testimony is devastating. Here there is an editor's essay correcting some errors in the light of more recent and thorough research, and setting it in context.
The profound humanity of Grossman shines through all he writes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving and Brilliant, 31 Aug 2013
By 
Susan M. Mcguire "Story Magic" (Liverpool, UK) - See all my reviews
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Having read Life and Fate I am convinced that Grossman is one of the greats of 20th century literature. The Road was a splendid collection of essays and stories. At times harrowing, at times uplifting and also humorous.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read, 2 Jan 2012
By 
D. J. King (Ednbridge, Kent, England.) - See all my reviews
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Purchased before the recent BBC radio series was even muted, this excellent book by a Russian Jew in the second world war, fully justifies its billing as a classic. Reads better than the BBC series.
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The Road: Short Fiction and Essays
The Road: Short Fiction and Essays by Vasily Grossman (Hardcover - 30 Sep 2010)
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