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Life and fate, p.1
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       Life and Fate, p.1

           Vasily Grossman
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Life and Fate


  Contents

  About the Author

  Also by Vasily Grossman

  Map

  List of Chief Characters

  Dedication

  Title Page

  Introduction by Linda Grant

  Introduction by the Translator Robert Chandler

  Historical Background

  The Text and the Translation

  Part One

  Part Two

  Part Three

  A Few Books About Stalinist Russia and Vasily Grossman

  Copyright

  About the Author

  Vasily Grossman was born in 1905. In 1941 he became a correspondent for the Red Army newspaper, Red Star, reporting on the defence of Stalingrad, the fall of Berlin and the consequences of the Holocaust, work collected in A Writer at War. In 1960 Grossman completed his masterpiece Life and Fate and submitted it to an official literary journal. The KGB confiscated the novel and Grossman was told that there was no chance of it being published for another 200 years. Eventually, however, with the help of Andrey Sakharov, a copy of the manuscript was microfilmed and smuggled out to the west by a leading dissident writer, Vladimir Voinovich. Grossman began Everything Flows in 1955 and was still working on it during his last days in hospital in September 1964.

  Linda Grant was born in Liverpool on 15 February 1951, the child of Russian and Polish Jewish immigrants. She is the author of Sexing the Millennium: A Political History of the Sexual Revolution, The Cast Iron Shore, Remind Me Who I am Again, Still Here, The People On The Street: A Writer’s View of Israel, The Clothes On Their Backs, The Thoughtful Dresser and We Had It So Good. Her second novel, When I Lived in Modern Times, set in Tel Aviv in the last years of the British Mandate, won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2000.

  For more information on Orange Inheritance editions please see www.orange.co.uk/bookclub

  Also by Vasily Grossman

  Everything Flows

  LIST OF CHIEF CHARACTERS

  THE SHAPOSHNIKOV FAMILY AND THEIR CIRCLE

  Shaposhnikova, Lyudmila Nikolaevna

  Shtrum, Viktor Pavlovich Lyudmila’s husband, a physicist, member of the Academy of Sciences

  Nadya daughter of Viktor and Lyudmila

  Shaposhnikova, Alexandra Vladimirovna Lyudmila’s mother

  Shaposhnikova, Yevgenia Nikolaevna (‘Zhenya’) Lyudmila’s sister

  Abarchuk Lyudmila’s first husband, arrested in 1937

  Shaposhnikov, Anatoly (‘Tolya’) Lyudmila’s son by Abarchuk, a lieutenant in the army

  Spiridinova, Marusya sister of Lyudmila and Yevgenia, drowned in the Volga during the evacuation of Stalingrad

  Spiridinov, Stepan Fyodorovich Marusya’s husband, director of the Stalingrad Power Station

  Spiridinova, Vera daughter of Marusya and Stepan Fyodorovich

  Shaposhnikov, Dmitry (‘Mitya’) brother to Lyudmila, Yevgenia and Marusya, now in a camp as a political prisoner

  Shaposhnikov, Seryozha Dmitry’s son, a soldier at the front, in house 6/1

  Krymov, Nikolay Grigorevich Yevgenia’s former husband, a commissar in the Red Army

  VIKTOR’S COLLEAGUES

  Sokolov, Pyotr Lavrentyevich mathematician in Viktor’s laboratory

  Sokolova, Marya Ivanovna his wife

  Markov, Vyacheslav Ivanovich in charge of experimental work in Viktor’s laboratory

  Savostyanov laboratory assistant

  Weisspapier, Anna Naumovna laboratory assistant

  Loshakova, Anna Stepanovna laboratory assistant

  Nozdrin, Stepan Stepanovich technician in Viktor’s laboratory

  Perepelitsyn electrician in Viktor’s laboratory

  Svechin head of the magnetic laboratory

  Postoev a doctor of physics

  Gavronov, Professor a specialist in the history of physics

  Gurevich, Natan Samsonovich a doctor of physics

  Chepyzhin, Dmitry Petrovich director of the Institute

  Pimenov administrative director of the Institute while it is in Kazan

  Shishakov, Aleksey Alekseyevich Academician, appointed administrative and scientific director on the Institute’s return to Moscow

  Kovchenko, Kasyan Terentyevich appointed deputy director

  Dubyonkov head of the personnel department

  Ramskov secretary of the Institute Party Committee

  Badin head of the Scientific Section of the Central Committee

  VIKTOR’S CIRCLE IN KAZAN

  Madyarov, Leonid Sergeyevich historian, Sokolov’s brother-in-law

  Artelev, Vladimir Romanovich chemical engineer, the Sokolovs’ landlord

  Karimov, Akhmet Usmanovich translator into Tartar

  IN THE GERMAN CONCENTRATION CAMP

  Mostovskoy, Mikhail Sidorovich an Old Bolshevik

  Gardi an Italian Priest

  Ikonnikov-Morzh a former Tolstoyan, called ‘a holy fool’ by his fellow prisoners

  Chernetsov a former Menshevik

  Yershov, Major a captured Russian officer

  Nikonov, Major a captured Russian officer

  Osipov, Brigade Commissar a captured Russian officer

  Zlatokrylets, Colonel a captured Russian officer

  Gudz, General a captured Russian officer

  Kirillov, Major a captured Russian officer

  Kotikov a captured Russian officer, a Party member

  Liss, Obersturmbannführer SS representative on the camp administration

  IN THE RUSSIAN LABOUR CAMP

  Abarchuk Lyudmila’s former husband

  Nyeumolimov former commander of a cavalry brigade during the Civil War

  Monidze former member of the Presidium of the Communist Youth International

  Rubin, Abrasha a medical orderly

  Barkhatov a criminal, Abarchuk’s assistant

  Tungusov an old guards officer

  Ugarov, Kolka a criminal

  Konashevich a former aircraft mechanic and boxing champion

  Magar an Old Bolshevik, Abarchuk’s former teacher

  Zakorov a criminal, in charge of Abarchuk’s hut

  Perekrest leader of the coal-team

  Dolgoruky, Prince a mystic

  Stepanov former professor at the Economics Institute

  Mishanin, Captain the operations officer

  Trufelev a medical orderly

  ON THE JOURNEY TO THE GAS CHAMBER

  Levinton, Sofya Osipovna an army doctor, friend of Yevgenia

  David a boy

  Borisovna, Musya a librarian

  Bukhman, Rebekka a relative of David’s

  Rozenberg, Naum an accountant

  Karasik, Natasha a shy girl

  Yankevich, Lazar a machinist

  Deborah Samuelovna his wife

  Vinokur, Musya a pretty girl

  Khmelkov, Anton a member of the special unit

  Zhuchenko, Trofima a member of the special unit

  Kaltluft, Sturmbannführer the commander of a Sonderkommando

  IN THE LUBYANKA PRISON

  Krymov, Nikolay Grigorevich Yevgenia’s former husband, a commissar

  Dreling a Menshevik

  Bogoleev an art historian and poet

  Katsenelenbogen a former Chekist and Moscow compere

  IN KUIBYSHEV

  Shaposhnikova, Yevgenia Nikolaevna Lyudmila’s sister

  Genrikhovna, Jenny former governess to the Shaposhnikov family

  Shargorodsky, Vladimir Andreyevich an aristocrat, in exile from 1926–33

  Limonov a man of letters from Moscow

  Rizin, Lieutenant-Colonel Yevgenia’s boss

  Grishin head of the passport department

  Glafira Dmitrievna senior tenant in Yevgenia’s lodgings

  AT STALINGRAD POWER STATION

&
nbsp; Spiridonov, Stepan Fyodorovich the director

  Spiridinova, Vera his daughter

  Andreyev, Pavel Andreyevich a guard

  Nikolayev the Party organizer

  Kamyshov the chief engineer

  GETMANOV’S CIRCLE IN UFA

  Getmanov, Dementiy Trifonovich secretary of an obkom, appointed commissar to Novikov’s tank corps

  Getmanova, Galina Terentyevna his wife

  Nikolay Terentyevich Galina’s brother

  Mashuk an official in the State security organs

  Sagaydak an executive in the propaganda department of the Ukrainian Central Committee

  MEMBERS OF A FIGHTER SQUADRON OF THE RUSSIAN AIR FORCE

  Viktorov, Lieutenant a pilot, Vera Spiridinova’s lover

  Zakabluka, Major the commander of the squadron

  Solomatin, Lieutenant a pilot

  Yeromin, Lieutenant a pilot

  Korol, Junior Lieutenant a pilot

  Martynov, Wing-Commander Vanya a pilot

  Golub, Political Instructor billeted with Viktorov

  Skotnoy, Lieutenant Vovka a pilot, billeted with Viktorov

  Berman the squadron commissar

  Velikanov, Lieutenant a pilot, the duty-officer

  NOVIKOV’S TANK CORPS

  Novikov, Colonel Pyotr Pavlovich the commanding officer, Yevgenia’s lover

  Nyeudobnov, General Illarion Innokyentyevich Novikov’s chief of staff

  Getmanov, Dementiy Trifonovich the commissar

  Karpov, Colonel the commander of the 1st Brigade

  Byelov the commander of the 2nd Brigade

  Makarov the commander of the 3rd Brigade

  Fatov a battalion commander

  Vershkov Novikov’s orderly

  Kharitonov Novikov’s driver

  OFFICERS OF THE SOVIET ARMY IN STALINGRAD

  Yeremenko, Lieutenant-General* commander-in-chief of the Stalingrad Front

  Zakharov, Lieutenant-General* Yeremenko’s chief of staff

  Chuykov, Lieutenant-General* commander of the 62nd Army

  Krylov, Major-General* Chuykov’s chief of staff

  Gurov, Divisional Commissar*

  Pozharsky* artillery commander of the 62nd Army

  Batyuk, Lieutenant-Colonel* commander of 284th Rifle Division

  Guryev, Major-General* commander of 39th Guards Division

  Rodimtsev* commander of the 13th Guards Division

  Belsky Rodimtsev’s chief of staff

  Vavilov commissar of Rodimtsev’s division

  Borisov, Colonel Rodimtsev’s second-in-command

  Byerozkin, Major in command of a regiment

  Glushkov Byerozkin’s orderly

  Podchufarov, Captain in command of a battalion

  Movshovich in command of a battalion of sappers

  Pivovarov battalion commissar in Byerozkin’s regiment

  Soshkin political instructor in Byerozkin’s regiment

  SOLDIERS IN HOUSE 6/1

  Grekov, Captain ‘house-manager’

  Antsiferov, Sergeant-Major in command of sapper detachment

  Vengrova, Katya a radio-operator

  Kolomeitsev a gunner

  Batrakov, Lieutenant in command of artillery observation post

  Bunchuk an observer

  Lampasov a plotter

  Klimov a scout

  Chentsov a member of the mortar-crew

  Lyakhov a sapper

  Zubarev, Lieutenant in command of the infantry

  Shaposhnikov, Seryozha a soldier

  Perfilev a soldier

  Polyakov a soldier

  IN THE KALMYK STEPPE

  Darensky, Lieutenant-Colonel a staff officer from Front Headquarters

  Alla Sergeyevna the wife of an Army commander

  Claudia the mistress of the Member of the Military Soviet

  Bova, Lieutenant-Colonel the chief of staff of an artillery regiment

  OFFICERS OF THE GERMAN ARMY IN STALINGRAD

  Paulus, General Friedrich* commander of the 6th Army

  Schmidt, General* Paulus’ chief of staff

  Adam, Colonel* Paulus’ adjutant

  Bach, Lieutenant Peter an infantry officer

  Krap an officer in charge of a detachment of scouts, in hospital with Bach

  Gerne, Lieutenant a staff officer in hospital with Bach

  Fresser, Lieutenant an officer in hospital with Bach

  Lenard an SS officer

  Chalb the commander of the military police

  Eisenaug, Sergeant an NCO in Bach’s company

  * Historical characters.

  THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED TO MY MOTHER, YEKATERINA SAVELIEVNA GROSSMAN

  LIFE AND FATE

  Vasily Grossman

  WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY Linda Grant

  TRANSLATED BY Robert Chandler

  Introduction by Linda Grant

  In the summer of 2003 I read Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate. It took three weeks to read and three weeks to recover from the experience. Novels fade, your immersion in their world turns into a faint dream, and then is forgotten. Only great literature grows in the imagination. Grossman’s book did more than grow, it seemed to replace everything I had previously thought and felt, filling me with what Grossman calls ‘the furious joy of life itself’ which I have never lost.

  Life and Fate is about the terrible years of the mid-twentieth century in the Soviet Union. Its vast canvas covers the Battle of Stalingrad, the Gulag, the coercion of a state which decides as diktat the nature of reality and of truth, however preposterously distant from actual reality and truth. Generals on the Front, common soldiers, mothers, wives, sons, daughters, sisters, ex-husbands, a boy about to advance on his first kiss, Nazi camp commandant, a prison interrogator, a holy fool, scientists in a Moscow laboratory – all of these characters swarm through the pages. Great ideas are discussed: the nature of totalitarianism, the betrayal of the Bolshevik revolution, the nature of anti-Semitism, military strategy, the question of freedom and how we can be free despite the external circumstances that chain us.

  Life and Fate can be a daunting, monumental read. But its greatness is not the weight of those themes, for at the end of its 871 pages you are left with a message which, to the reader just starting the novel, might appear so banal that it could be inscribed on a greetings card. For Grossman, communism and fascism are ephemera. What matters, what endures, is the individual and the ordinary act of human kindness, indeed the often senseless act of kindness, as when an old Russian woman, about to hoist a brick in the face of a captured German soldier, instead finds to her own incomprehension that she has reached into her pocket and given him a piece of bread. And in the years to come, will still never be able to understand why she did it.

  Grossman was not opposing ideology with Christian forgiveness, far from it. He was a Soviet Jew whose Jewishness became more and more meaningful to him as he was caught between the vast threats of anti-Semitism both from Nazi Germany and at home in the form of the increasingly deranged conspiracy theories of Stalin. The passion of Life and Fate is not for ideas or history, but for the ordinary; for human life in all its perplexing, muddled, contradictory and infuriating variety. Grossman takes us into the minds of a group of soldiers waiting in the forest: one is full of dire forebodings, one is singing, one is chewing bread and sausage and thinking about the sausage, one is trying to identify a bird, one worries about whether he’d offended his friend, one is composing a farewell poem to autumn, one is remembering a girl’s breasts, one is missing his dog. This passage leads to the substance of Grossman’s central thought, which at the time he was writing could lead to the arrest of a Soviet citizen: ‘The only true and lasting meaning of the struggle for life lies in the individual, in his modest peculiarities, and his right to these peculiarities.’

  Such treasonous ideas can topple empires.

  In the weeks after I first read Life and Fate I was desperate to talk about it, and found a tragic absence. No one I knew had read the no
vel. Almost no one had even heard of it. The early years of the last decade were the time when Life and Fate and its author were only just beginning to be discovered by English-language readers, following the Harvill Secker publication of Robert Chandler’s translation. These early awakenings of interest were largely due to the publication of two best-selling books, Stalingrad and Berlin: The Downfall by the military historian Antony Beevor, who drew heavily on Grossman’s journalism as source material. Grossman spent the war as a correspondent, he was there at the Battle of Stalingrad and is believed to have been the first reporter of any nationality to enter the extermination camp of Treblinka and make speakable the horrors he found there.

  It was ironic that a former British army officer should lead me directly to one of the greatest European Jewish writers of the century, in a field dominated by Proust, Kafka, Isaac Babel, Bruno Schulz and Joseph Roth.

  Life and Fate affected me like no other novel. It affected me personally. The danger in describing this impact is that it will sound to new readers as if Grossman is a writer with a message, and messages tend to kill art stone-dead. Grossman did, of course, have something to say, but its purpose was against the whole notion of the Big Idea. Whatever Grossman was up to, he was not trying to recruit anyone; instead, he was telling us to leave each other alone, to stop harming each other with our insistence on telling others what to think and how to live.

  Yet Grossman changed me. The compassion of Kafka for his commercial traveller trapped in the body of an insect, the historic scope of Joseph Roth and Isaac Babel’s hard-headed understanding of war, were all elements of an impact that it is difficult to describe, even years later. I had written novels about idealists, all failed, but political idealism still seemed worth the effort. Idealism is a romantic pursuit, it speaks to the heart, it flatters our egos. Grossman, no reactionary, taught me that the right to our own modest peculiarities is the only right worth fighting for. In his novel there are no heroes, no saints and no supermen. This must have seemed an extraordinarily dangerous message in the Soviet Union of the early Sixties, despite the Khrushchev thaw.

  Life and Fate, unlike the work of the Soviet Union’s other internationally-recognised dissident writers, Boris Pasternak and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, was virtually unknown in the West until the mid-Eighties because the year after its completion in 1960 the book was, in the author’s words, ‘arrested’. KGB men came to Grossman’s flat, removed all copies, removed carbon paper and even the ribbon from his typewriter in case it had left a tell tale imprint. He was told that if his book were ever published, it would not be for another two hundred years. The Soviet Union was careful not to make a martyr of him and he continued to publish stories in important journals in the remaining few years of his life. But there were no Nobel Prizes or committees abroad campaigning for his safety, and part of the torment of his final years was the belief that his life’s work would become, in the word he used to describe the prisoners in Stalin’s camps, ‘dust’: a forgotten book about times everyone wanted to forget.

 
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