The prequel to Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate, the War and Peace of the 20th Century, documenting Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union and the lead up to the Holocaust. Now in English for the first time.
Stalingrad is a dazzling prequel ... In Stalingrad, Grossman transforms his reportage into a work of lyrical art and fierce power. His descriptions of battle in an industrial age are some of the most vivid ever written – the whoosh of enemy fire, how 'each splinter made its own particular sound' ... Stalingrad’s long non-appearance in English is a mystery. It may have suffered from a lack of interest in Soviet culture. The novel was wrongly estimated on the grounds that anything published under Stalin couldn’t have literary merit. In fact Stalingrad is Life and Fate’s equal. It is, arguably, the richer book – shot through with human stories and a sense of life’s beauty and fragility.
Where Life and Fate presents a disillusioned moral hellscape, Stalingrad is a work of hope and true belief in the long march of the Soviet project. Above all, it is a paean to the strength of the Soviet people as they mobilized to confront fascism. Long dismissed as phoned-in socialist realism, this major work, Chandler suggests, has been unjustly ignored because of stubborn Cold War thinking—an enduring prejudice that if a book actually managed to get published at the apogee of Stalin’s rule, it couldn’t be good ... Though it is far from perfect, Stalingrad is an accomplished historical war novel, focusing, like Life and Fate , on the Shaposhnikov family, and is similarly remarkable for its scope ... dredges up the ideological strata of antebellum communism, the pre-1917 world of European salons and cravats, and is laced with unsparing discourses on the depredations of fascism ... a nineteenth-century novel updated for the twentieth century, and at times feels like a diorama. Like a post-rock record, the book has meandering, slow chapters, where Grossman noodles off in a corner, exploring, to no discernible end, some aspect of human nature during wartime. But it is also a time capsule of lives, documenting the ideological nuances and socioeconomic complexity of this lost world.
...a stunning translation ... It is a less philosophical, more visceral novel than Life and Fate, with Grossman intent on expressing the underlying solidarity of a 'people’s war' where 'great deeds can be accomplished by simple, ordinary people'. The novel’s sweep is immense, by turns microscopic and panoramic ... it would be wrong to think that Stalingrad is a gloomy novel. It teems with love, devotion and wonderful flashes of humour. Sometimes all three arrive at once ... There are dozens of such moments, but the most indelible passages arrive during the battle itself. The blow-by-blow accounts of young men willing to die to gain enough time for reinforcements to arrive from the east bank of the Volga are positively Homeric.