Life and Fate

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Life and Fate (Russian: Жизнь и судьба) is a novel by Vasily Grossman, a Russian Jew, written in the Soviet Union in 1959 and published in 1980. Begun by Grossman while Stalin was still alive, Life and Fate was his sequel to For a Just Cause. Very quickly after it was submitted, the KGB raided his apartment; the manuscripts, carbon copies and notebooks, as well as the typists' copies and even the typewriter ribbons were seized. The KGB did not know that he had left two copies of the manuscript with friends.

Quotes about Life and Fate[edit]

  • More than 50 years after the great novel “Life and Fate” was confiscated, the Federal Security Service transferred the complete archives and original manuscript of the novel by Vasily Grossman, making it available for study. Now, researchers can study several drafts as well as previously unpublished chapters.
    Vasily Grossman wrote his famous novel "Life and Fate" over a decade - from 1950 to 1960. But like many Soviet authors, he never saw it published in his lifetime. The work, considered by many scholars to be the greatest Russian novel about World War II, was considered anti-Soviet for its unfiltered view of Stalin, his henchmen, and regime.
    In 1961, the KGB searched Grossman’s Moscow apartment and seized not only the typewritten copies of the novel, but the original manuscript, and with it all his sketches and previous drafts. Grossman was very depressed by the finality of this act—the complete censorship and confiscation of his work.
  • In autumn 2011 on BBC Radio 4 BBC produced a 13-episode radio play based on the novel "Life and Fate" which became a bestseller in the U.K. In Russia in 2012, the novel was filmed as a television series that aired nationally. Its premiere was successful of the audience: according to research firm TNS Russia, bringing in about 20 percent of Moscow viewers 18 and over.
  • There are novels I have re-read after 30 or 40 years that have shocked me with ideas which evidently made such a strong impression they ceased to be someone else’s thoughts and became my own... But only one book had such a decisive impact that I can date to it a profound alteration in my worldview and even behaviour. I read Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate in 2003... It took me three weeks to read it and three weeks to recover from the experience, during which time I could barely breathe. Grossman was a Soviet Jewish journalist who covered the battle of Stalingrad and the liberation of the Treblinka extermination camp. After the war he wrote this epic novel. Life and Fate is a Soviet War and Peace, in which every aspect of society radiates out from the central characters... Grossman saw the individual as a novelist does. “Human groupings have one main purpose,” he wrote, “to assert everyone’s right to be different, to be special, to think, feel and live in his or her own way … 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.” The tolerance of difference is his message, not an assault on society or the state.
  • People are placed in invidious situations, like Shtrum, cornered by Stalin. Few are heroes. But these acts of kindness recur throughout the novel, not in any context other than the spur of the moment. Kindness alleviates some of the horrors of war.
    Like many of my generation, I’d been shaped by ideas; by a number of -isms, socialism and feminism above all. I saw the world in terms of various us and them groupings. After reading Life and Fate they seemed to matter less. Grossman wasn’t advocating Christian saintliness, and was far from perfect in his own life. But if, even in the horror of war, you can alleviate suffering through some extraordinary action (volunteering to go to the gas chamber to hold the hand of a child so he won’t have to die alone), how easy might it be to behave with less anger, cynicism, irritation or sneery dismissiveness? And that’s what I have tried to do. Life and Fate is a daunting undertaking, but for those who finish it the experience is profound. Few novels that set out to change the world succeed; this one merely changed me.
    • Grossman’s Life and Fate took me three weeks to read – and three to recover, Linda Grant, The Guardian, (26 Aug 2014)

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External links[edit]

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