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A Writer At War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army 1941-1945 Paperback – 7 Sep 2006

4.6 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico; New Ed edition (7 Sept. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845950151
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845950156
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 132,280 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"A remarkable addition to the literature of 1941-45...a wonderful portrait of the wartime experience of Russia... A worthy memorial to a remarkable man" (Max Hastings Sunday Telegraph)

"Magnificent... Any war correspondent writing today about the horrors we are still being subjected to by ideologues, mean-spirited leaders and fanatics of various shades and faiths, should take the time to read him. There is a profound humanity in his prose, an abilitity for empathy and a capacity for rage that one rarely meets" (Omer Bartov Times Literary Supplement)

"Grossman, like Isaac Babel twenty years before him, lifts war correspondence to new heights" (Literary Review)

"As a pithy account of war at its most extreme, this fascinating book will rarely be bettered" (James Delingpole Mail on Sunday)

"Unforgettable... Antony Beevor and Luba Vinogradova have recovered nothing less than a lost classic of reportage" (Sean McCarthy The Scotsman)

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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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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By Lonya TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 14 Feb. 2006
Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There is no denying that this is a good book and a very interesting read. Parts of it (more details below) are exceptional and truly great writing. However, it didn't quite hold together as I had expected it to and lacked a coherent narrative that made for rather disjointed reading. I guess if one reads the description carefully (that this a collection of writings from Grossman's works and in particular his notebooks), then that is to be expected.
If you are expecting a flowing narrative and excellent historical resource, something like a Beevor book, then you may be disappointed. You will get some very interesting passages and some great writing from Grossman and some useful texts that act as links and joining narrative from Beevor, but you won't get a coherent read. It would also help to know a fair bit about the subject matter. Hence the three stars.
There is one very important exception to this, the section on Treblinka. Alone this is worth getting the book for. I can't describe it as enjoyable reading, but it is extremely powerful, gripping and basically as good as this kind of writing can get. Exceptional and five stars for that section alone.
I suspect that a better bet for someone interested in Grossman and this period would be to read Life and Fate, as much of what appears in that is based on things included in Grossman's diaries and other writings. That really is a complete masterpiece.
For those really interested in the subject matter, this is still a good book though.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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