Saturday, November 21, 2009

Five best works of fiction about World War Two

Antony Beevor has written both novels and non-fiction. His new book is D-Day: The Battle for Normandy.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of works of fiction about World War II.

One title on the list:
Life and Fate
by Vasily Grossman
Harper & Row, 1984

Vasily Grossman's "Life and Fate" is the "War and Peace" of Stalinism and the Great Patriotic War, as the Soviets called World War II. This deliberate act of literary homage to Tolstoy uses the Battle of Stalingrad in the place of the Battle of Borodino, and there are several parallels in construction. But the characters in "Life and Fate" and the dilemmas they face when confronted by the moral distortions of the system are entirely the product of what the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam called the "wolfhound age." Grossman, who had covered World War II from the front for a Red Army newspaper, accumulated stories, incidents and extraordinarily powerful vignettes in his notebooks for later use in his novels. The anti-Semitism that emerged in Stalin's later years convinced Grossman of the parallels between Nazism and Stalinism. This similarity became a covert but recognizable theme in his great novel. Grossman naïvely believed that it could be published during the Khrushchev thaw, but he was soon disabused. The KGB "arrested" the book in 1961 after Mikhail Suslov, the ideological chief of the Central Committee, declared that it must not be published for 200 years. The secret police even took Grossman's carbons and typewriter ribbons. He died a broken man, but an early copy of the manuscript had survived, and it was smuggled out to be published abroad.
Read about the other four books on Beevor's list.

--Marshal Zeringue