Vasily Grossman’s novel Life and Fate (completed in 1960) has been hailed as a 20th-century War and Peace. It has been translated into most European languages and also into Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Turkish and Vietnamese. There have been stage productions, TV series and an eight-hour BBC radio dramatisation. And Grossman himself — like Leo Tolstoy, Osip Mandelstam, Alexander Solzhenitsyn and several other Russian poets and novelists — is now venerated not only as a writer but also as a moral exemplar.
His life story is indeed remarkable. He bore witness, with clarity and balance, to many of the most terrible events of the last century: the terror famine in Ukraine, Stalin’s purges of 1936–37, the battle of Stalingrad, the fall of Berlin, and the Shoah on both Soviet and Polish soil.