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Generations of Winter Paperback – March 21, 1995

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; First American Edition edition (March 21, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679761829
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679761822
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #610,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The exiled Russian author of The Burn and In Search of Melancholy Baby has attempted a daring coup in this huge, panoramic novel of Soviet life from 1925 to 1945: nothing less than a War and Peace for the 20th century. Aksyonov is a thoroughly self-conscious artist, and his lofty ambition seems quite clear. The fact that he has come astonishingly close to realizing it is the great news about this engulfing work. We meet the Gradov family at their dacha outside Moscow a few years after the Revolution. Boris is an esteemed surgeon, the epitome of the old intellectual bourgeoisie; his wife Mary is a lover of Chopin; their son Nikita a dashing young Red Army officer with a beautiful wife; second son Kirill is a prim young Marxist; and daughter Nina is a wild bohemian poet. Their warm, peaceful house is a refuge as the world darkens around them, the paranoia in the Kremlin grows and Stalin's star rises. In the terrible 1930s, both sons are swept into the legion of the disappeared; then, as war begins and the Germans approach Moscow, Nikita's military skills bring him back, ironically, to a position of great military power. All this is told in a style that is at once headlong, ruminative and at times wildly surreal. Aksyonov offers interludes in which animals, trees and birds interact with the human creatures; he also includes contemporary press clippings of the kind John Dos Passos utilized in USA . The effect is to create a dazzling kaleidoscope of emotion and action that is at once profoundly Russian and movingly universal. The horrors of Siberian exile and of the bitter battlefronts in Poland and the Ukraine have seldom been more powerfully evoked--even by Solzhenitsyn. Once accustomed to the book's strange rhythms and sometimes exotic angles of vision, a reader will be quite transported into a world that is by turns poignant and crushing.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Sprawling from 1925, when Russia was still in ferment, until 1945, when Stalin held it in his deadly grip, this fast-paced historical novel uses the story of the Gradov family to illuminate the tragic fate of the Russian people. From the beginning, noted surgeon Boris Nikitovich Gradov wrestles with his conscience in the face of revolutionary demands, while his children-Nikita, a career officer with doubts about his role in suppressing the Kronstadt uprising; Troskyite poet Nina; and dedicated Communist Kirill-represent the dissenting viewpoints that flourished for a time after the Bolsheviks won out. Both sons inexplicably end up in the Gulag, though Nikita is rescued from the brink of death when Hitler invades and skilled officers are needed to command the ranks. Aksyonov's characters are occasionally wooden or stereotypical, but he paints on a broad canvas, and his sweep is impressive; even readers unschooled in the events he depicts will finish this book with a sober understanding that "all of modern Russian history looks like a series of breakers-waves of retribition." Recommended for most collections.
Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Sylvia Weiser Wendel on January 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
Yes, it helps if you've read "War & Peace", but even if you don't know your Rostovs from your Raskolnikovs, "Gens. of Winter" is a must. Funny, wrenching, profound, and above all totally original, "Gens." is a masterpiece I have been reading and rereading for five years. Aksyonov alternates a straightforward, gripping, family-history narrative, full of densely layered, palpably real characters, with quotations-- many of them hysterical -- from magazines like 'Time' and 'Pravda', as well as occasional short chapters from the point of view of a squirrel, a dove, a houseplant, and of course a dog. Far from being bewildering or pretentious, however, this point-of-view smorgasbord coalesces into one vision of startling clarity. This book won't please the fundamentalist or the PC (lots of drinking, smoking, sexual activity), not to mention apologists for Stalin if there are any still alive. If, however, you crave exciting, challenging, world-expanding fiction, with a compelling story line and dialogue so real, you're practically wiping the characters' spit off your face -- if you like the idea of historical fiction but can't bear ponderous, talentless bores like James Michener -- if you've ever wondered what was going on in Russia during all those curtained years, put "Generations of Winter" in your shopping cart and click CHECK OUT. The book is long, the print is small, and the experience can't be surpassed. One of the formative books of my life -- and, could be, yours!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By C M Magee on January 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
Generations of Winter was originally conceived as a mini-series for PBS, but when the project was shelved, Vassily Aksynov's publisher convinced him to make a novel out of the project. The novel was published in the US in 1994, and 10 years later, in late 2004, a mini-series based on the novel made it to Russian television where it was a resounding success. Considering the subject matter, the success of Generations of Winter in Russia must represent a difficult acknowledgement of the horrors of Soviet history which remain unmarked by monuments and for which the government has never officially apologized. Aksyonov is writing from firsthand knowledge when his characters are hauled off in the middle of the night by NKVD agents. Aksyonov's mother, Evgenia Ginzburg, was sent to the camps when he was five, and he joined her in exile in Siberia when he was 16. He followed in his mother's footsteps as a writer as well. Ginzburg is well-known for her memoirs of the gulag and exile, Journey into the Whirlwind and Within the Whirlwind. Many reviewers have described Generations of Winter as a War and Peace for the 20th century. Aksyonov's book is a sprawling, multi-generational tale set between the years 1925 and 1945. It centers on the Gradov family, lively members of the Moscow elite whose lives are shattered by purges, torture and war. Generations of Winter is a historical novel at heart. It's pages are populated by real historical figures, most notably Stalin, who mingle with the fictional Gradovs. Though the book's subject matter is difficult, the Gradov's shine, and the narrative is breathtaking in its scope.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By James Ferguson VINE VOICE on November 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
Closer to Dr. Zhivago than it is War and Peace, Aksyonov tries to piece together the Stalinist era through the eyes of an extended Russian-Georgian family. The first half of the book is the most compelling as Aksyonov sets up his intriguing family and its subsequent demise as its members ran afoul of Stalin. He is able to capture the clamp down of the Soviet state and its effect on the republics, particularly Georgia, which had managed to retain its identity under Lenin.
Navigating the ravaged battlefields of war proved more difficult for Aksyonov, as he tries to reassemble the scattered family. There are many engaging scenes but as a whole the second part of the book lacks focus, and reads as a jumble of events, which may very well have been the case in the beleagured Soviet Union as it struggled through its darkest hour.
Aksyonov offers a ray of sunshine in the end, but for the most part this is a bleak novel, befitting the era, and the impact Stalinism had on Russian society. The brief glimmer of a modernist utopia was all too quickly disspelled. In its place, Russians, Georgians and other ethnic groups tried to recapture their trampled identities. This being the only thing that could guide them through the aftermath of the revolution.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jim Palmer on December 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
I got an MA in Russian Studies, so I may be slightly prejudiced. But this book is one of the reasons I don't consider those years a waste of time, in spite of the fact that I've never applied anything I learned to anything practical.

The regrettably recently-deceased Mr. Aksyonov didn't always knock it out of the park. The Burn was pretty incomprehensible, and The New Sweet Style did zilch for me. But Generations of Winter, and its sequel, The Winter's Hero, are, in a word, magnificent. Magnificent, I say.

It's one of those massive sprawling epics spanning generations and decades, told from God knows how many different points of view, and it rather eerily accurately describes the effects of the Russian Revolution, the Stalinshchina, World War II (or as the Russians call it, The Great Patriotic War)and Stalin's last days on both a national and individual scale--what these events did to the lives of families and individuals. It's also terrifically translated--at no point does either the narrative or the dialogue sound stilted or artificial. It's quirky without being precious. The story is peppered here and there with impressions of current Russia from the viewpoint of reincarnated personages from Russia's past, and each of these little gems says something acidic and and dead on accurate about the state of the country.

This saga of three generations of the Gradov family, a dynasty of Russian doctors struggling to maintain the best of their pre-revolutionary Russian values, is heartbreaking in parts. Lots of characters who I wish didn't end up dying. Aksyonov, as a writer, is as brutal and unsparing as the times that this story chronicle.
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