Friday, May 5, 2017

"Vasily Grossman from the Frontline": Audiobook Review

Vasily Grossman from the Front Line Audiobook

While many eyewitnesses endured the siege of Stalingrad and the battle by the Soviets to free it from the Nazi invasion, probably none has the stature of Vasily Grossman. His novels recount his and his comrades' experiences, during and then after this Great Patriotic War. when Grossman like so many fell afoul of the Stalinist regime. The Man of Steel's antisemitism increased, and Grossman was censored by the state and investigated by the KGB. Luckily, he was not sentenced to prison or gulag.

As a war correspondent for Red Star, he volunteered for service and spent over a thousand days at the front. The BBC dramatization of three of his wartime reports is well-delivered. First comes a sniper's first two days. His name's Chekhov, but his prowess comes in targeting Germans, and ensuring that their own beleaguered situation grows as the Russians figure out the layout of their ruined city's heart.

Then comes an evocation of Stalingrad. Imagine it on a moonlit night among the bombed buildings and it may nearly for a second seem romantic. Grossman applies his prose style here for more effect than one would I imagine find in journalism from the battleground. It can be flowery, but it can also be deployed skillfully. In Elliot Levey's radio recital of his account, one feels its emotional tug again.

This increases for the bleak report on the Jewish question, as answered in the Ukraine. He reports only one Jew survives in one place, and he hears rumors of two others. Out of what he claims here three million dead, a testament to victims named by trades and traits accumulates into a dour litany. (Amazon US 4/22/17) 

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