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Life and Fate (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – May 16, 2006

154 customer reviews
Book 2 of 2 in the Orange Inheritance Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1961, this epic WWII Russian novel about the battle of Stalingrad was seized for being "anti-Soviet" by the KGB; it was finally published almost 20 years after the author's death, when a dissident publisher smuggled a microfilm copy to the West.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Library Journal

Grossman (1905-64) hoped that Life and Fate (1960), the sequel to his World War II novel In a Just Cause (Za Pra voe delo, 1954; no English translation), would appear in the USSR. Even dur ing the 1960s "thaw," that proved im possible. The translator compares the book to War and Peace , but it is closer to Solzhenitsyn's The First Circle in portraying a society that knows neither physical nor spiritual peace. Grossman uses one family's experiences of the months of the Stalingrad campaign to show the entire mad tapestry woven by Stalin and Hitler. Like Solzhenitsyn, he depicts laboratories, prisons, and the Soviet elite's uneasy privilege, but he also covers both sides of the front and follows Jews to the gas chambers. This sprawling, uneven novel is wrenching, and compelling in its portrait of loyal citizens who repel the Nazi invaders only to face renewed repression at home. Mary F. Zirin, Altadena, Cal.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 896 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (May 16, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590172019
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590172018
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (154 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,694 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

227 of 233 people found the following review helpful By Tony Thomas on August 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
I confess Life and Fate devoured me. Tuesday, I had to stop work, stop my normal schedule, stop answering the telephone, and read it. And this was not my first, but my second time through its pages.

Life and Fate's main action takes place from the fall of 1942 until the spring of 1943. It reaches forward in history to the 1950s and reaches back to the Bolshevik revolution itself. it covers every aspect of the Soviet-German war from Stalin and Hitler's offices, to devastated huts inhabited by soldiers and refugees, from the halls of the scientific academies to the dark quarters of the Gulag and the gas chambers of the Nazi death camps.

While there is a lot of action in this book in the smoke and fire of Stalingrad, in the dungeons of Stalin's prisons, and in the death camps of Hitler , the strength of this book is how it covers an important part of history, but also shows the life, loves, yearnings, hearts and minds of real people struggling through the Second World War in the Soviet Union.

Grossman's political target is what he calls the "totalitarian" State. He sees symmetry between Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. Mostly he frames Nazi Germany as being identical to the Stalinist Soviet Union, a depiction that harms the accuracy of his depiction of Germany. Like many around the world of his generation, Grossman asserts the strength of the human spirit and the struggle for freedom and socialism against these twin horrors. Yet, Grossman appears too much in awe of Stalin and Hitler, and does not realize that their brutality flowed from their weaknesses, not strength.

Even people I know who should know better, see the heroic defense of the Russian Revolution's conquests against Hitler only through the fantasies produced by Stalinist propaganda.
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94 of 95 people found the following review helpful By Douglas S. Wood on November 27, 2006
Format: Paperback
Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate, the classic epic novel of WWII Russia, centers on the Shaposhnikova family and their life in totalitarian Stalinist Soviet Russia, and in particular on the Battle of Stalingrad, but there are literally dozens of characters in a multitude of settings.

The tale is unrelentingly grim. Nearly every character dies, is betrayed to the Soviet authorities, or simply suffers - and no ordinary suffering, but genuine Slavic deprivation. With a few temporary exceptions, universal hunger and material deprivation prevail. Hunger ranges from ever-present to starvation. Political betrayal runs rampant across every class of Stalinist Soviet society with mind-boggling inefficiency. Grossman also describes the very beginnings of the Nazi Holocaust at Treblinka and other extermination camps, including a blood-chilling scene with Eichmann having dinner at the camp to celebrate its opening.

Grossman's characters engage in extensive internal dialogue about their suffering and especially about their political punishments. Grossman recreates the frustration of not knowing why one has been accused of infidelity to the Revolution. Often the victim doesn't know by whom or of what they have been accused.

Grossman was a decorated Soviet military journalist who moved gradually toward the dissidence that flowers in his epic novel. What is remarkable, and a matter of some debate today, is how Grossman ever imagined that his book would be published in the Soviet Union - as he proposed during the thaw under Nikita Khrushchev. Instead, while Grossman was not molested, his book was taken "under arrest" by the KGB in 1961. Fortunately, Grossman kept two undeclared copies that were smuggled out to the West in 1980 and published in 1985.
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143 of 149 people found the following review helpful By Lonya VINE VOICE on July 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
Vasily Grossman submitted his manuscript for Life and Fate in 1960 at the height of Khrushchev's post-Stalinist cultural thaw. Subsequent to a review of the manuscript Grossman was advised that the book was being arrested. The book could not be published for at least 200 years. All copies of the manuscript were rounded up and sent to party headquarters for safekeeping. The manuscript was arrested because it dared to imply that Hitlerism and Stalinism bore more similarities than differences. Grossman made this point obliquely by putting these words into the mouth of a despicable SS death camp commandant. Nevertheless this was too much for both Khrushchev and the apparatchiks at the National Union of Writers and the book was banned. Life and Fate was eventually published because a manuscript remained at large. The author Vladimir Voinovich helped smuggle a copy to Switzerland where it was published in 1980, 15 years after Grossman's death in 1965. The book was published in the USSR in 1989 to sensational results. Nevertheless, Grossman remains relatively obscure outside Russia and that is a great pity.

Grossman was born in 1905. Although Jewish by birth, Grossman was never particularly religious and his family supported the 1917 revolution. After receiving a degree in chemistry Grossman found work in the Donbass coal mines. Encouraged by Maxim Gorky, Grossman began writing short stories and plays. Grossman adopted Stalin's maxim that writers were engineers of human souls and his work was firmly rooted in the rather tedious school of socialist realism. Grossman's play "If You Believe the Pythagoreans" attacked the philosophical rants of intellectuals and argued that they were garbage not "worth a good worker's boot." For all intents and purposes, Grossman was a true believer.
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