The Road brings together short stories, journalism, essays, and letters by Vasily Grossman, the author of Life and Fate, providing new insight into the life and work of this extraordinary writer. The stories range from Grossman’s first success, “In the Town of Berdichev,” a piercing reckoning with the cost of war, to such haunting later works as “Mama,” based on the life of a girl who was adopted at the height of the Great Terror by the head of the NKVD and packed off to an orphanage after her father’s downfall. The girl grows up struggling with the discovery that the parents she cherishes in memory are part of a collective nightmare that everyone else wishes to forget. The Road also includes the complete text of Grossman’s harrowing report from Treblinka, one of the first anatomies of the workings of a death camp; “The Sistine Madonna,” a reflection on art and atrocity; as well as two heartbreaking letters that Grossman wrote to his mother after her death at the hands of the Nazis and carried with him for the rest of his life.
Meticulously edited and presented by Robert Chandler, The Road allows us to see one of the great figures of twentieth-century literature discovering his calling both as a writer and as a man.
About the Author
Vasily Semyonovich Grossman was born on December 12, 1905, in Berdichev, a Ukrainian town that was home to one of Europe’s largest Jewish communities. In 1934 he published both “In the Town of Berdichev”—a short story that won the admiration of such diverse writers as Isaak Babel, Maksim Gorky, and Boris Pilnyak—and a novel, Glyukauf, about the life of the Donbass miners. During the Second World War, Grossman worked as a war correspondent for the army newspaper Red Star, covering nearly all of the most important battles from the defense of Moscow to the fall of Berlin. His vivid yet sober “The Hell of Treblinka” (late 1944), one of the first articles in any language about a Nazi death camp, was translated and used as testimony in the Nuremberg Trials. His novel For a Just Cause (originally titled Stalingrad) was published in 1952 and then fiercely attacked. A new wave of purges—directed against the Jews—was about to begin; if not for Stalin’s death, in March 1953, Grossman would almost certainly have been arrested. During the next few years Grossman, while enjoying public success, worked on his two masterpieces, neither of which was to be published in Russia until the late 1980s: Life and Fate and Everything Flows. The KGB confiscated the manuscript of Life and Fate in February 1961. Grossman was able, however, to continue working on Everything Flows, a novel even more critical of Soviet society than Life and Fate, until his last days in the hospital. He died on September 14, 1964, on the eve of the twenty-third anniversary of the massacre of the Jews of Berdichev, in which his mother had died.
Robert Chandler has edited and translated numerous Russian titles, including Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate and Everything Flows. He is the editor of Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida and the author of a biography of Alexander Pushkin. He has co-translated numerous works by Andrey Platonov, including the award-winning Soul, which is published by NYRB Classics. He lives in London.
Elizabeth Chandler is a co-translator of Andrey Platonov’s Soul and Alexander Pushkin’s The Captain’s Daughter.
Olga Mukovnikova is a freelance translator, translation reviser for Amnesty International, and a member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists.
"Another superb translated work to appear [in 2010] was The Road, comprising Vasily Grossman's short stories and journalism. Although occasionally tainted by propaganda, his stories – particularly the later ones – are extraordinary, punctuated with small details that stop the eyes and drag them back to read certain phrases again. — The Guardian
"Grossman's unsparing, literary account of the horrific ways Nazi Germany implemented its ethnic-cleansing program at Treblinka was one of the first reports of a death camp anywhere in Europe and eventually provided prosecutors at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal with crucial background information. The surprise is that up until now and English-language translation of Grossman's lengthy article has never been published in its entirety. That will soon change with the publication of The Road, a collection of Grossman's best short stories and war-time articles, including 'The Hell of Treblinka.'" --Tobias Grey, The Wall Street Journal
“Grossman’s greatness is manifested in a constant ability to surprise his readers: where we lazily expect darkness and gloom, Grossman provides lightness and humour; what might seem at first glance to be narrow polemic turns out, when paid more attention, to have the grandeur of tragedy.” —David Lea, The Literateur
“Vasily Grossman is the Tolstoy of the USSR.” —Martin Amis
“…the collection is a treasure trove that lends the reader an insider's understanding of what it was like to live through the Soviet era, at the same time as it introduces us to Grossman's enduring preoccupation with the wonder and terror of humanity.…A wonderful collection, this – an introduction to the man and his times that also tells us much about his love, his pity and his faith.” —Gillian Slovo, The Guardian
“Grossman’s work excavates from the Soviet rubble vital artifacts of the bitter, the tragic, the self-sacrificing, the indomitable and, ultimately, the inspiring….. [The Road is] a volume that is sensitive to Grossman’s often lyrical language and frames each entry within its time through comprehensive notes.” —Ken Kalfus, The New York Times
“[Grossman’s] report ‘The Hell of Treblinka’ was one of the first to report on an extermination camp, and was used as testimony in the Nuremberg trials. ‘Treblinka” is included in the recently published book, The Road — an original collection of Grossman’s short stories, essays, and letters translated into English for the first time…. This collection serves as a fantastic view into the man’s work, and will hopefully lead readers to seek out his two books of fiction put out a few years earlier.” —Jason Diamond, Jewcy
“Soviet author Grossman volunteered for the army when the Germans invaded in 1941 and spent more than three years as a special correspondent at the front for the army newspaper Red Star. His wartime writing established him as a major "voice" of war–a status resembling in many ways that of Ernie Pyle in America…Grossman was a perceptive observer with an eye for essential detail. His vignettes of the fighting at Kursk and the battles that brought the Red Army into Berlin are models of combat reporting, and the elegiac realism of his description of Treblinka merits wide anthologizing in Holocaust literature.” –Publishers Weekly