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War and Peace in Stalin’s Russia
Vasili Grossman’s massive novel has rightly been compared with War and Peace. [*] Vasili Grossman, Life and Fate, Fontana paperback, 880pp., £5.95. The author himself makes it obvious that Tolstoy’s masterpiece not only inspired him but served as a model for his saga of a great country fighting against enormous odds for its very existence. Both artists chose a canvas of huge dimensions to portray events that shook the world; both also turn a penetrating and compassionate gaze at the strains and stresses, torments, sufferings and longings of innumerable individuals, whose life and fate have been cruelly affected or shattered by those events. While Tolstoy painted his picture of Russia in chiaroscuro, Grossman’s image is one of unrelieved darkness and gloom. In his writings the tradition of Tolstoy mingles with that of Dostoevsky.
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