Read By: Jonathan Franzen - 92Y, New York

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Read By: Jonathan Franzen

Apr 15, 2020

Jonathan Franzen on his selection:

Vasily Grossman's towering achievement, Life and Fate, is a product of his unique access to every aspect of the Soviet society during the Second World War. Though he would soon fall out of favor with Stalin and would fare no better under Krushchev, he was a valued member of the Soviet intelligentsia, survived the purges of 1937, (he had friends and family who didn't), and was the country's leading war reporter. He published the first authoritative, eyewitness accounts of the Nazi death camps—his imagined account of his mother's last days in a Ukrainian Jewish ghetto, an early chapter in Life and Fate, is a cornerstone of the literature of the Shoah—and he had an unparalleled grasp of Soviet military life; the novel is necessary reading for its Stalingrad battle scenes alone. The chapter I've selected to read, which consists mostly of the writing of a religious kook imprisoned by the Nazis, is probably the least representative chapter, but it's arguably the most central. It feels spoken to me directly by an author caught between the great evil of Hitler and the slightly less great evil of Stalin and struggling to find something in humanity worth believing in.

Life and Fate at Indiebound

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