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The Stalin Organ Paperback – June 24, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books; First U. K. Edition edition (June 24, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862076529
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862076525
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 7.8 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,988,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Philippe Vandenbroeck VINE VOICE on June 9, 2011
Format: Paperback
The book describes two, almost arbitrary, days at the Eastern front. Two days in a war that lasted almost two thousand days. It's late summer. A marshy, drab area in the shadow of an insignificant hill somewhere in Russia (we don't really know where; the places are as far as I understand fictitious).

The story starts with an orderly's two-hour trek, at twilight, from advanced positions to a command post behind the lines. A journey of Dantesque proportions: machine gun, katyusha and battery fire, the eerie glow of tracer bullets and flares, the threat of snipers, mounds of disfigured corpses, mines, mud, a Russian captive hanging from a tree, an odorless field kitchen ... By the time he arrives in the village we know this book will not ingratiate itself with us with a glimmer of hope.

There are several protagonists. The men on both sides have been reduced to dumb, anonymous creatures, propelled forward by fear and loathing. The homeland is all but absent. It doesn't seem to matter to the soldiers. Faces of spouses and kids have disappeared from memory. Self-preservation is the only mantra. Several figures drift into sight and away, many of them nameless, only known by their rank. Most of them die.

Nature is mutely, primevally impassive under the incessant bombardments. It has been reduced to the basic elements: mud, water, fire, and an air heavy with the smell of cordite and bodies. Swamps engulf men and armored vehicles. The sun just speeds up the decomposition of corpses.

Murderous technology itself becomes a protagonist: the hulking, animal-like threat of the tanks, the wild and extraordinary carnage inflicted by the Stalin Organ, the fury of the Stuka dive bombers.

The Russians attack early in the next morning.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Gio on September 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
Gert Ledig's horrific portrayal of a battle in the trenches, between German and Russian forces near Leningrad in 1942, in which a humanly insignificant hill position near an exposed swamp was the site of ghastly slaughter and anguish, bears an uncanny resemblance to accounts, both verified and fictional, of the battles for Cemetery Ridge and Little Round Top at Gettysburg in the American Civil War. The similarities are to be found chiefly in the desperate sufferings, both physical and mental, of the men on both sides. At Gettysburg, at least 8000 soldiers were killed outright on the battlefield, with as many as 50,000 gravely wounded or missing, roughly a third of all combatants and well over a third of all the officers of the rebel Confederate States army. The weaponry of the Civil War was not archaic; artillery makers had been highly stimulated by 'demand' and one could arguably claim that the Civil War was the first ever fought with really potent "weapons of mass destruction".

The "Stalin Organ" of Ledig's title was a weapon of clumsy mass destruction, a rocket launcher with multiple barrels. It was crude but effective, and much of the gore on both sides of the 'front' resulted from incessant, blind bombardment by artillery. The first machine guns had been developed in the American Civil War, but by World War II their design had made terrifying advances; machine gun fire rips through every paragraph of 'Die Stalinorgel'. Aerial flares and balloon observation had also appeared in the Civil War, but they were childish sparklers compared to the fearsome flares than illuminate the terrified faces, German and Russian, in Ledig's depiction of this stubborn battle between two companies of men deemed dispensable by commanders far out of hearing of their screams.
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