[Marxism] Grossman's Life and Fate

Marv Gandall marvgand at gmail.com
Tue Jul 5 20:46:50 MDT 2011

On 2011-07-05, at 8:13 AM, Dennis Brasky wrote:
> Could you offer a brief synopsis?

It's an epic novel of Soviet society during the Second World War, which has been likened by many critics to Tolstoy's War and Peace.  Le Monde called it "the greatest Russian novel of the 20th century". Grossman, as the item posted earlier by Louis stated, was a leading Soviet war correspondent who reported on the long seige of Stalingrad and the counter-attack by Soviet forces which decided the outcome of the war and was among the first observers to describe the horrors of the concentration camps visited on European Jewry and Soviet prisoners of war. He drew on these events which lie at the heart of the novel, as well on his own experience, as a progressively more dissident writer, of Stalinist repression. 

By 1954, when Grossman began writing Life and Fate (it was completed in 1960), he had already rejected Stalinism from the perspective of an old Bolshevik rather than as an anti-Communist, a distinction which has not been understood or noted by most reviewers. This is apparent in the flattering references to both the Right and Left Oppositions in the novel. It is finely crafted and moving in many parts, not least a wrenching final letter written to the main protagonist Victor Shtrum (loosely based on Grossman) by his mother on the eve of the Nazi liquidation of the Berdichev ghetto. One reviewer complained about too many "philosophical digressions" and attributed this to the lingering influence of Socialist Realism on Grossman's work, but, of course, I found welcome and interesting his ruminations, through his characters, on the Russian revolution, the transformation of the Soviet state under Stalin, the meaning of freedom, Soviet military tactics, the forced collectivization of the peasantry, the parallels and oppositions between Stalinist and Nazi totalitarianism, etc. as I'm sure readers on this list will as well.




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