Vasily Grossman: Народ бессмертен (The People Immortal; No Beautiful Nights)

The latest addition to my website is Vasily Grossman‘s Народ бессмертен (The People Immortal; No Beautiful Nights) . The book had been translated into English in 1945 but this version uses the original manuscript, some of which was censored, often by Grossman himself. It is an account of the relatively early period of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, in which the Germans ruthlessly drive forward, forcing the Soviets back. We follow one troop, in particular their Marxist expert commissar, a womanising soldier who is always willing to undertake any task assigned to him and various commanders. Grossman shows that the Germans are more efficient and organised than the Russians. (Stalin had claimed that the Germans had better equipment which was not true.) We see the bombing of Gomel, almost completely destroyed. We also see the effect of Stalin’s Order No. 270 which forbade Soviet troops from surrendering or retreating on pain of death and required them to fight to the death. The troop we are following is encircled, as many Soviet troops were and we see how they deal with it. Grossman is both an excellent reporter and an excellent novelist and this is another first-class work from him.

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