Life and Fate, by Vasily Grossman

This novel is centred on Stalingrad during the second world war. Soviet and Nazi troops fight street by street. In house 6/1 normal military discipline has broken down amongst the Russian troops, and yet they repel every attack. The taste of freedom has emboldened them. The cast of characters takes us beyond Stalingrad, to Nazi death camps and villages deep in the Russian hinterland. Grossman’s first hand experiences of the war give this book a raw descriptive power and a deep humanism. It is about human beings struggling for freedom even when “life is full to the brim with need”. JM

Vintage; 2006; 864 pages

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Language ought to be the joint creation of poets and manual workers. George Orwell

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