Customer Review

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unflinching, Unsettling, Uncommonly Good., 23 Sep 2011
This review is from: Everything Flows (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
'Everything Flows' is the novel Vasily Grossman was still revising during his last days in hospital and is an unfinished book. However, unfinished and perhaps a little unbalanced in its structure it may be, it is still nevertheless, a work of art.

Grossman became a published writer in the 1930s and, after his mother was murdered during the German invasion in 1941, he volunteered for the army but was employed as a journalist instead, becoming one of Russia's most renowned war correspondents. Grossman witnessed some of the most appalling events of twentieth century: the siege of Leningrad, the Holocaust and the Terror Famine, and he was able to use these terrible experiences to inform his writing. Grossman gave one of the first accounts of the Nazi death camps and his account was later used as evidence in the Nuremburg Trials. He also collected documentation on the massacres of Russian and Polish Jews, but this was repressed by the Soviet authorities. Grossman became a dissident in the 1950s and wrote `For a Just Cause' - a war novel - but the sequel `Life and Fate' was so outspoken and emotively explosive that it was suppressed by the KGB.

`Everything Flows' is a much shorter novel than `Life and Fate', but the historical scope is, in some ways, no less broad. It tells the story of Ivan Grigoryevich, a fifty-year-old man who has been released from the Gulag after having been incarcerated for thirty years and of his endeavour to find a place for himself in post-Stalinist Russia. The story begins with him visiting his cousin Nikolay, a mediocre scientist, who by compromise and by the timely removal of some of his more talented colleagues, has managed to prosper. Although Nikolay had been hoping that the reunion would be a joyful occasion, he finds he somehow feels threatened by Ivan's presence and thinks this could be due to the guilt he is feeling because Ivan has suffered terribly, whilst he (Nikolay) has remained `free'. In fact few people that Ivan meets after his release have absolutely clear consciences and we start to see that there were two groups of Russians: those who compromised and adapted their lives to the rules of the Soviet state, and those who did not and ended up spending years in the labour camps, the jails, or who were never seen again. These two groups of people were unavoidably connected, for a man might improve his life by denouncing another person of conspiracy or treason, whether the denunciation were true or otherwise.

This is an amazing book; it informed me, enthralled me and unsettled me. A couple of the book's chapters were devoted to Ivan's dwellings on the fate of the women who were incarcerated in the camps and the inhumane treatment that these women received made me cry - as did the section narrated by Anna Sergeyevna, Ivan's lover, about her involvement as an activist in the man-made Terror Famine of 1932-3. This is not the sort of book you can say you have enjoyed reading, but it is one of those books you appreciate having read.

Also recommended Life And Fate and A Writer At War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army 1941-1945
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4.8 out of 5 stars (18 customer reviews)
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Susie B
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