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Vasily Grossman and the novel art of speaking truth to power

Whether dealing with Nazi or Soviet tyranny, Grossman's epic novels fearlessly exposed uncomfortable truths

“Vasily Grossman covered the battle of Stalingrad and the Soviet advance to Berlin”. Photo: © HERITAGE IMAGE PARTNERSHIP LTD / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Vasily Grossman won fame in the Soviet Union as a war reporter during the 1941-5 war, but has become known only relatively recently in the west as the author of Life and Fate, a massively ambitious novel about his wartime experiences. Told through the eyes of the Shaposhnikov family and their friends, that novel told awkward truths fearlessly. Some were truths about the Jewish experience…

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