Vasily Grossman's novel Life and Fate has over 150 characters spread throughout war-torn Russia during the Battle of Stalingrad in late 1942 and early 1943. Grossman tells the story through the experiences of Soviet soldiers. The book also deals with the horrors of fascism. This is told in the most chilling way, as Nazi personnel build gas chambers and as a group of Jewish people are forced to journey to the camps.
Grossman's own mother was a victim of the Holocaust. His accounts of the death camps were amongst the first published. An inspiring tale of the will to fight fascism is told through Russian officers organising resistance in a German concentration camp. There is a third story too, of life under Stalinism.
There is the constant fear of purges, of dehumanising dilemmas regarding whether to write denunciations or apologies, of growing official anti-Semitism, and of the tension between the ideals of 1917 and the reality of Stalinist Russia. The novel's survival means readers are able to get an insight into how human beings cooperated, survived, and struggled for liberation even amidst the worst depths of oppression.
Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman is available for £10.99 from Bookmarks, 1 Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3QE. » www.bookmarks.uk.com