Stalingrad by Vasily Grossman

Marcel Theroux at The Guardian:

Although it was first published in English in 1985, it’s only in the last 10 years or so that Vasily Grossman’s novel Life and Fate has been widely acclaimed as a masterpiece. The publication of Robert Chandler’s revised translation in 2006 was a tipping point for the book’s reputation in the UK. It began to receive huge praise – “World War II’s War and Peace”, “equal to anything in the great canon of Russian literature”, “it took me three weeks to read and three weeks to recover from the experience” (Niall Ferguson, Gillian Slovo and Linda Grant, respectively). In 2011, an eight-hour BBC adaptation was broadcast on Radio 4. This won a new audience for the book, though the actual number of people who made it through the 850-page volume is another question.

I confess I resisted Life and Fate for a long time. I’m suspicious of gigantic novels and mindful of the critical tendency to overpraise them. I also recall with mixed feelings many hours spent wading through Virgin Soil Upturnedby Mikhail Sholokhov, a Russian Emmerdale, and Children of the Arbat, Anatoly Rybakov’s epic tetralogy about life under the Stalinist terror.

more here.