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Vasily Grossman


Vasily Grossman was born in Berdychiv (in what is now Ukraine) in 1905. He was born Iosif Solomonovich Grossman but his name was Russified into Vasily, though he was called Vasya at home. His father was a chemical engineer and his mother a French teacher. His parents separated when he was five and Grossman and his mother lived in Switzerland for a while. He lived with his father, while studying in Kiev, and then moved to Moscow where he studied physics and mathematics at Moscow University. After graduating he worked as a chemical engineer in the Donbass region. His first story received praise from Gorky and Bulgakov. It was made into a successful film, which was finally released in 1987. He continued to write and publish and left his job to become a full-time writer. He had trouble with the authorities when his novel, Степан Кольчугин [Stepan Koluchin], was denied the Stalin Prize, allegedly by Stalin himself.

During the War, he worked as a war correspondent but his mother was trapped in Berdychiv and murdered along with many others Jews by the invading Germans. He was at many of the key events of the war, including the Battle of Stalingrad, which featured in his novels За правое дело (Stalingrad) and Жизнь и судьба (Life and Fate), as well as at the Battle of Berlin. He published newspaper articles and books on the topic, as well as articles and books on the Holocaust. He also edited The Black Book, which documented crimes by the Germans against the Jews. The book was suppressed and only published in Russian in Jerusalem in 1980. Because of the post-war anti-Semitism campaign in the Soviet Union as well as Grossman’s criticism of the treatment of the peasants, his work was soon no longer published. His magnum opus, Жизнь и судьба (Life and Fate), was submitted for publication in 1959 but was rejected and the KGB raided his flat and took all manuscripts and carbon copies. He was told that the book could not be published for two hundred years. Fortunately, a microfilm was smuggled out of the Soviet Union by Vladimir Voinovich and published in Switzerland in 1980. But by this time, Grossman had died of stomach cancer (in 1964) and he never saw his greatest work published.

Books about Grossman

John Gordon Garrard and Carol Garrard: The Bones of Berdichev: The Life and Fate of Vasily Grossman

Other links

Vasily Grossman
Vasily Grossman
The Life and Fate of Vasily Grossman
Vasily Grossman (how World War II turned a Soviet loyalist into a dissident novelist)
Vasily Grossman: Myths and Counter-Myths
The Maximalist: On Vasily Grossman
Vasily Grossman, Russia’s greatest chronicler, awaits redemption
Гроссман, Василий Семёнович (in Russian)
Гроссман Василий (in Russian)
Трагический гений 20 века (in Russian)
Texts of his works (in Russian)


1934 Глюкауф (novella)
1935 Цейлонский графит (novella)
1937-40, 1947 Степан Кольчугин (novel)
1942 Народ бессмертен (The People Immortal; No Beautiful Nights) (novel)
1943 Сталинград (essays)
1944 Старый учитель (story)
1945 Годы войны (The Years of War; A Writer at War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army 1941-1945) (essays)
1946 Юность Кольчугина (Kolchugin’s Youth) (story)
1950 Повести, рассказы (articles, stories)
1954 За правое дело (Stalingrad) (novel)
1958 Треблинский ад (The Treblinka Hell: Photographic Album Of Martyrs, Heroes and Executioners)
1967 Добро вам! (essays, stories)
1970 Всё течёт… (Forever Flowing; Everything Flows) (novel)
1980 Жизнь и судьба (Life and Fate) (novel)
1980 Черная книга (The Black Book: The Ruthless Murder of Jews by German-Fascist Invaders Throughout the Temporarily-Occupied Regions of the Soviet Union and in the Death Camps of Poland During the War of 1941-1945; The Complete Black Book of Russian Jewry) (edited, with Ilya Ehrenburg)
1985 На еврейские темы (essays)
2010 The Road: Stories, Journalism and Essays
2013 An Armenian Sketchbook