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Armenian Sketchbook

ISBN-10: 1590176189
ISBN-13: 9781590176184
Edition: N/A
List price: $17.95 Buy it from $7.50
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Description: Few writers had to confront so many of the last century’s mass tragedies as Vasily Grossman. He is likely to be remembered, above all, for the terrifying clarity with which he writes about the Shoah, the Battle of Stalingrad, and the Terror Famine  More...

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Book details

List price: $17.95
Publisher: New York Review of Books, Incorporated, The
Publication date: 2/19/2013
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 160
Size: 5.00" wide x 8.00" long x 0.20" tall
Weight: 0.396
Language: English

Few writers had to confront so many of the last century’s mass tragedies as Vasily Grossman. He is likely to be remembered, above all, for the terrifying clarity with which he writes about the Shoah, the Battle of Stalingrad, and the Terror Famine in the Ukraine.An Armenian Sketchbook, however, shows us a very different Grossman; it is notable for its tenderness, warmth, and sense of fun.After the “arrest”—as Grossman always put it—ofLife and Fate, he took on the task of editing a literal Russian translation of a long Armenian novel. The novel was of little interest to him, but he needed money and was evidently glad of an excuse to travel to Armenia.An Armenian Sketchbookis his account of the two months he spent there.This is by far the most personal and intimate of Grossman’s works. Although its many threads are deftly woven together, it has an air of absolute spontaneity, as though he is simply chatting to the reader about his impressions of Armenia—its mountains, its ancient churches, its people—and even his various physical problems. Grossman did not realize it, but the real cause of these problems was that he was already suffering from cancer, soon to be found in one of his kidneys. Just asEverything Flowsis his political testament, soAn Armenian Sketchbookis his personal testament.Grossman could have published this work in his lifetime. The censors asked only that he omit fifteen lines about an elderly Armenian peasant who spoke at length, at a village wedding, about the terrible suffering endured by both the Jewish and the Armenian peoples. By that time in his life, Grossman had grown to feel deeply ashamed of all the compromises he had made with the Soviet authorities and he refused to agree to the censors’ demand. As a result,An Armenian Sketchbookwas published only posthumously. A bowdlerized Russian text was published in 1967 and a complete text in 1988. This is the first English translation.

Grossman, a graduate in physics and mathematics from Moscow University, worked first as a chemical engineer and became a published writer during the mid-1930s. His early stories and novel deal with such politically orthodox themes as the struggle against the tsarist regime, the civil war, and the building of the new society. Grossman served as a war correspondent during World War II, publishing a series of sketches and stories about his experiences. Along with Ehrenburg, he edited the suppressed documentary volume on the fate of Soviet Jews, The Black Book. In 1952 the first part of his new novel, For the Good of the Cause, appeared and was sharply criticized for its depiction of the war. The censor rejected another novel, Forever Flowing (1955), which was circulated in samizdat and published in the West. The secret police confiscated a sequel to For the Good of the Cause, the novel Life and Fate, in 1961, but a copy was smuggled abroad and published in 1970. Grossman's books were issued in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and have met with both admiration and, on part of the nationalist right wing, considerable hostility.

Elizabeth Chandler is a pseudonym for Mary Claire Helldorfer. She is the author of the Kissed by an Angel and Dark Secrets series. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

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