One of Grossman's three great war novels - alongside Life and Fate and Stalingrad - The People Immortal is both a work of fiction and an important contribution to the Soviet war effort.
Set during the catastrophic defeats of the war's first months, it tracks a Red Army regiment that wins a minor victory in eastern Belorussia but fails to exploit this success. A battalion is then entrusted with the task of slowing the German advance, and eventually encircled, before ultimately breaking out and joining with the rest of the Soviet forces.
Grossman's descriptions of the natural world - and his characters' relationship to it - are both vivid and unexpected, as are his memorable character sketches: eleven-year-old Lionya is determined to hang on to his toy revolver as he walks a long distance behind German lines; his defiant grandmother slaps a German officer in the face and is shot; Kotenko, a fiercely anti-Soviet peasant who initially welcomes the Germans, hangs himself in despair when they treat him with contempt; and Semion Ignatiev, a womanizer and gifted story-teller, turns out to be the boldest and most resourceful of the rank-and file soldiers.
Grossman spent most of the war years close to the front line. But The People Immortal is far from being mere morale-boosting propaganda. On the contrary, as letters included in this volume make clear, it was read as a textbook, and as a work of military education. This edition includes not only the unredacted novel itself, translated here for the first time since 1946, but also a wealth of background material.
Translated from the Russian by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler
Classification : Historical Fiction
Pub Date : AUG 18, 2022
Imprint : Maclehose Press
Page Extent : 352
Binding : HB
ISBN : 9781529414738
Price : INR 1,599
VASILY SEMIONOVICH GROSSMAN (1905-1964) was born into a Jewish family in Berdichev in what is now Ukraine. In 1934 he published both "In the Town of Berdichev" - a short story that won him immediate acclaim - and the novel GlÃ¼ckauf about Donbas miners. During the Second World War he worked as a reporter for the army newspaper Red Star; his "The Hell of Treblinka" (1944) was one of the first accounts of a Nazi death camp to be published in any language. His long novel Stalingrad was published in 1952. During the next few years Grossman worked on his second Stalingrad novel: Life and Fate. In February 1961 the KGB confiscated his typescript but he was able to continue working on Everything Flows which is yet more critical of the Soviet regime until his last days. The short stories he wrote during his last three years are among his supreme achievements; English translations are included in The Road. Grossman died on 14 September 1964 on the eve of the twenty-third anniversary of the massacre of the Jews of Berdichev in which his mother had died.