'Stalingrad' in the Press June 19, 2019
Photo credit: Malvern Books, Austin, TX
The reviews are in for the centerpiece of our summer season. Vasily Grossman’s Stalingrad, in a pioneering English translation by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler, by all accounts more than lives up to its companion Life and Fate. If you still need convincing, see some of the most notable recent praise below.
"Stalingrad is Life and Fate’s equal. It is, arguably, the richer book – shot through with human stories and a sense of life’s beauty and fragility.” —Luke Harding, The Guardian
"In the front-line posts, factories and power-plants of Stalingrad itself, with interludes in Moscow, Kazan and even in the German high command, Grossman knits a dozen plot strands into a single narrative. He shows how “a lacerating sense of historical change” cuts deep into the exhausted bodies and brooding minds of his characters. The battle scenes set in Stalingrad’s 'vast, rumbling smithy' have all the mesmeric thrill and dread that admirers will recall from “Life and Fate”. The lyricism, tenderness and pathos of the moments of respite touch the same heights.”—The Economist
"A fascinating afterword by translator Robert Chandler charts how this text was drawn together from early draft manuscripts and editions published both before and after Stalin’s death in 1953, which allowed restoration of previously excluded passages. The almost polyphonic breadth and rich nuance of Grossman’s prose is perfectly captured by Chandler’s translation, accomplished with his wife Elizabeth. At close on 1,000 pages, it’s a monumental achievement.” — Tom Birchenough, The Arts Desk
"[Stalingrad] is an astonishing example of the compromises between creativity and censorship. Observing the negation of Grossman’s art as it tries to burst into flame in spite of the dampening of the censor, you get a deeper appreciation for the empathy, truth and magnanimity of its sequel. Perhaps the most intriguing element of all is the overstory: the way the Grossman of this novel somehow became the dissident author of Life and Fate. In the space between the two novels, the idealised bronze figures on a Soviet war memorial were transmuted into living beings. And in the process, the empathic knowledge that his work came to embody seems to have altered the heart of its creator.”—Marcel Theroux, The Guardian
"Google 'great writers' and his name doesn’t come up; suggest him to a book group and all you will get are shrugs; bring his name up in a writing workshop and students stare blankly. And yet the writer I’m talking about, Vasily Grossman, should be remembered for taking on one of the hardest challenges literature ever faced — trying to make sense of the madness and horror that swept over the world in the years 1939-45 — and by some miracle of courage and compassion wresting from it art.”—W.D. Wetherell, The Valley News