Kenneth Branagh stars in BBC Radio 4's ambitious eight-hour dramatisation of Life and Fate, Vasily Grossman's epic masterpiece set during the Battle of Stalingrad. This powerful work, completed in 1960, charts the fate of both a nation and a family in the turmoil of war. Its comparison of Stalinism with Nazism was considered by Soviet authorities to be so dangerous that the KGB placed the manuscript under arrest and Grossman was informed his book would not be published for at least 200 years.
Having been a household name as one of Russia's most distinguished war correspondents, Grossman died aged 58 - the banning of his book hastening the end of his life - and he would never know the fate of his masterpiece: smuggled out of the Soviet Union on microfilm, to freedom and eventual publication in the West. Today it is increasingly hailed as the most important Russian novel of the 20th century.
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I had a bit of a struggle following the thread of the story between the characters, however the narration skills of these amazing actors overcame this difficulty for the most part. As indicated in other reviews, the story is unrelentingly grim, realistic, and painful to listen to because of its adherence to accurate portrayal of individual experiences in World War II.
This was a most disappointing dramatization of one of the major Russian novels of the 20th century. Vasily Grossman's book was based on his experiences as a Jewish war correspondent on the Eastern Front, notably at Stalingrad, and also the first to report to the press on a Nazi death camp, Treblinka. It is a kind of War and Peace for the Soviet era. The main problem with the dramatization is that it is done in very British voices, which rather clashes with the Russian setting of the story. In many cases, the translator used British slang terms ("Give over!" for example) that may have been more or less correct but sounded horribly out of place. In addition, some local British dialects were used to represent the ordinary Russian soldiers (as opposed to the educated elite family who were the protagonists), and it was very difficult at times to understand what exactly they were saying. Another problem was simply that there were so many characters, and the situation so complex that it was hard to follow the story line altogether. Now I don't know if I want to try to get the book from the library or just forget it. That would be a pity, for the book--banned by the Soviet government and smuggled out of Russia to be published in the West--gives a terrifying portrait not only of what the Soviets suffered during the German occupation and the war, but also of the political terror of the Stalin regime. It's a book that needs to be widely known, but this dramatization is not the vehicle for it.
The similarity between Stalin's communism and Hitler's fascism is striking, although in the end they both deprive ordinary citizens of freedom and make them paranoid. The horrors of war to all sides is apparent here; and the fear of the people and bravery of the soldiers and arrogance of their leaders also shows itself in todays society and politics. As a Jew myself, I was tearful at times on both sides of the War, the cattle car, the "showers",(the Jew who only closes the door) the fear that neighbors would turn you in. The sound effects were so real. I felt I was there in the mud and stink of war.I don't know how the actors manage to create their characters in a room in front of a microphone with such conviction. They were amazing! The pain and disbelief in Krymov's voice as he was tortured without knowing why he was betrayed after being loyal to the Party all his life. Viktor's mother's sadness as she read the letter to him, so far away,before she died , etc. I felt it. I jumped when I heard the bombs; it so happened a plane flew overhead when I was listening to the recording. It made it more real. I recommend this book to someone who is familiar with Russian novels. There are always so many characters with long similar names. Sometimes difficult to keep track of when you're reading them, let alone listening. You might have to backtrack a few times to familiarize yourself with the voices, but it's definitely worth it.
I haven't heard any other dramatized books like this. Only Shakespearean Comedies. No comparison.I've read many books about the Concentration camps and Stalin in Russia, but never put together such as this book has been.
Krymov---David Tennant. I wish he had a Tardis to take him and the other actors out of there. His betrayal by his wife and Party was so devastating. His entire life was destroyed by lies.
The extremes of the political scale will lead to the same result. Persecution. Denial of Rights. War. Hate. Distrust Communism and Fascism supposed opposites, both granted power and wealth to the leaders. Stalin and Hitler. The same. Millions imprisoned and dead. Soldiers are fed hate and false ideals. They fight, die and kill for them. Citizens are stuck in the middle; Though they are also fed the diet of hate and fear of the "enemy" they're homeless, starving, being rounded up,raped, beaten and tortured, dying. The same on both side of the struggle. Suffering the same fate. The circle never ends even today. How many wars are there at this moment in the world?
I think this would be a great movie, with the same actors and I hope it's in the works. I will read the book on Kindle next. I know there is a lot more to this story.
Life and Fate is a wonderful, rich, beautifully written story, but it's also a tough read. This dramatized version is much more accessible and superbly done.
This is a real ensemble with threads of dozens of characters' stories woven together.Viktor's doctor mother is based on the author's own mother who died in occupied Ukraine and even without knowing that, her farewell letter to her son and her lingering presence in his consciousness is very moving. For some reason in this version I quite like Zhenya's tank commander and the scenes with Tolya and his radio operator.
I wanted to, but didn't. Listening or reading this story leaves you with a lot to think about and a bit emotionally wrung out. I was glad when each chapter gave me a convenient place to stop.
Nikolay being arrested by the NKVD.
Excellent narration from them, and others in the cast.
No extreme reaction, I was impressed witht he sound desing and acting.
"Wonderful writing and superb cast"
Wonderful writing and superb cast.
A true and frightening account of a terrible chapter in Russian history brought to life in an expertly written and brilliantly performed radio drama.
"Brilliant dramatical performance, a great story"
I have no special favorite character but the story itself was just brilliant
Having the actors reading the parts makes the story better
Epic masterpiece set against the battle of Stalingrad
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