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Vasily Grossman

The Russian writer's novel "Life and Fate"—often compared with "War and Peace"—was first published in English in the mid-1980s. But only now is interest taking off among a wider public

By Robert Chandler   September 2006

It is easy for a translator to exaggerate the importance of what he is working on. In the early 1980s, while I was translating Life and Fate—Vasily Grossman’s epic novel about the second world war and totalitarianism—I was certain that it was a very great work. As the years passed and few people either in Russia or the west seemed to be paying much attention to it, I began to doubt my judgement. It was a joy, therefore, to reread the novel last winter, for the first time in 20 years, and realise that I had underestimated Grossman’s greatness. Life…

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