Recommendations from our site

Life and Fate…is probably the most important work of fiction about World War II. But, in fact, it is more than just a fiction because it is based on very close reporting from his time with the soldiers. It is a deliberate act of literary homage to Tolstoy as one can see in the title. It is definitely the War and Peace of the 20th century.”

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“It’s the first novel to come out of the 1940s and 50s that attempts a comparative indictment of Hitlerism and Stalinism, the two varieties of totalitarianism that Grossman knew too well.”

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“An amazing and terrifying account, not simply of the battles, but of the armies fighting them.”

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“This is a wonderful, rich, melancholic, hopeful book. It’s a bit like Like A Tear in the Ocean: it embeds a piece of history in a well-crafted work of fiction and its characters represent the cornerstones of the period.”

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“It is about the strange interval of freedom during the Second World War in which the Soviet regime had to trust its people because it couldn’t compel their loyalty.”

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The book, according to the author

“The current situation is senseless. I am physically free, but the book to which I have dedicated my life is in jail—but it is I who wrote it, and I have not repudiated and am not repudiating it.… I continue to believe that I have written the truth and that I wrote it loving, empathizing with, and believing in the people. I ask for freedom for my book.”

Quoted in Leon Aron, Roads to The Temple (2012)

Commentary

“Tolstoy’s novel was the only book Grossman read during the war, and he read it twice; War and Peace hangs over Grossman’s book as a template and a lodestar, and the measure of Grossman’s achievement is that a comparison between the two books is not grotesque.”

"Good Day, Comrade Shtrum," John Lanchester, London Review of Books, 18 October, 2007

“The KGB immediately destroyed all copies of what Grossman called Life and Fate (Zhizn’ i sud’ba) except for two hidden by his friends, and he died in 1964 without ever seeing his work published.”

"The Russian Masterpiece You've Never Heard of," Leon Aron, Foreign Policy, October 12th 2010

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