Vasily Grossman

Keith Gessen in The New Yorker:

52923_grossman_vasilyA new book of Grossman’s war writings—a collection taken from his notebooks and his published pieces—has just appeared in English as “A Writer at War” (Pantheon; $27.50), translated by Antony Beevor and Luba Vinogradova. Beevor, whose book “Stalingrad” is the definitive account of the fighting in that city and relies heavily for color on Grossman’s reportage, is very fond of Grossman, and this collection weaves together his texts alongside lucid historical commentary to tell the story of the war through Grossman’s eyes. But what about Grossman himself? One wants to read the notebooks as a novel of education, recording a growing consciousness of the brutality and the corruption of the Soviet regime. In fact, a bit disappointingly, the Grossman we meet at the beginning of the book is already skeptical and wary of the regime. He notes the propaganda in the papers. “The bedraggled enemy continues his cowardly advance,” goes the headline, as the Germans take town after town. Interrogations of occasional German prisoners (at this point it was mostly Red Army soldiers who were being taken prisoner, in the hundreds of thousands) are absurd and demoralizing, a pathetic kind of Soviet tourism.

More here.