Vasily Grossman's 'Stalingrad': censorship and speaking silences

Vasily Grossman's 'Stalingrad': censorship and speaking silences

Monday, 14 May 2018 - 5:00pm to 7:00pm
Venue: 
Nissan Lecture Theatre
Speaker(s): 
Robert Chandler (Queen Mary, University of London)
Convenor: 
Dr Oliver Ready (St Antony's)
Series: 
Russian and Eurasian Studies Centre Monday Seminar

Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate has been hailed as a 20th century War and Peace. However, Life and Fate is only the second half of a dilogy, the first half of which was published in 1952. Grossman wanted to call this earlier work Stalingrad, though it was published under the title For a Just Cause. The characters in the two novels are largely the same and so is the story line; Life and Fate picks up where For a Just Cause ends, in late September 1942. The first novel is in no way inferior to Life and Fate; the chapters about the Shaposhnikov family are both tender and witty, and the battle scenes are still more vivid and moving. The one important difference is that in the later novel Grossman writes openly and directly about questions that, in the earlier novel, he can address only in code.

Between 1952 and Grossman’s death in 1964 there were six different published editions of For a Just Cause. Several versions incorporate changes, sometimes the addition of entire chapters, and all differ considerably from an early typescript that Robert Chandler has recently obtained. These differences show us which aspects of the novel most perturbed editors and censors.