One of Grossman’s three great war novels – alongside Life and Fate and Stalingrad.
“A significant, valuable addition to Grossman’s small but powerful body of work” WILLIAM BOYD
“A remarkable novel that illuminates the terrible realities of Barbarossa and the banal horror of warfare with incomparable understanding and insight” JONATHAN DIMBLEBY
“There are always good reasons for reading Grossman, but few times are as resonant as our own” Financial Times
“At the heart of his writing lies a tireless humanity and empathy” Telegraph
“Grossman combines a journalist’s eye with a novelist’s empathy” Spectator
Set during the catastrophic defeats of the war’s first months, it tracks a Red Army regiment that wins a minor victory in eastern Belorussia but fails to exploit this success. A battalion is then entrusted with the task of slowing the German advance, and eventually encircled, before ultimately breaking out and joining with the rest of the Soviet forces.
Grossman’s descriptions of the natural world – and his characters’ relationship to it – are both vivid and unexpected, as are his memorable character sketches: eleven-year-old Lionya is determined to hang on to his toy revolver as he walks a long distance behind German lines; his defiant grandmother slaps a German officer in the face and is shot; Kotenko, a fiercely anti-Soviet peasant who initially welcomes the Germans, hangs himself in despair when they treat him with contempt; and Semion Ignatiev, a womanizer and gifted story-teller, turns out to be the boldest and most resourceful of the rank-and file soldiers.
Grossman spent most of the war years close to the front line. But The People Immortal is far from being mere morale-boosting propaganda. On the contrary, as letters included in this volume make clear, it was read as a textbook, and as a work of military education. This edition includes not only the unredacted novel itself, translated here for the first time since 1946, but also a wealth of background material.
A heavily redacted English translation of The People Immortal was published in 1946. This current edition is the first that reflects Grossman’s original text.
Translated from the Russian by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler