Stalingrad by Vasily Grossman review – one of the great novels of the 20th century

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Published in English for the first time, Grossman’s 1952 novel is a masterly requiem for the Soviet citizens who died in the epic battle with Hitler’s Germany

In September 1942 the German high command announced that the city of Stalingrad had fallen. Soviet troops were clinging on to a narrow strip of land next to the Volga river, and held a couple of giant factories to the north. Their situation seemed hopeless. After a spectacular advance, German officers believed they had won the war, with the Red Army doomed and in retreat.

The unexpected Soviet counter-offensive forms the climax of Vasily Grossman’s 1952 novel Stalingrad, one of the great novels of the 20th century, and now published in English for the first time. Grossman originally envisaged Stalingrad and his masterpiece, Life and Fate (1960), as a single organic work. Stalingrad is a dazzling prequel. It features characters who appear in both.

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