Life and Fate By Vasily Grossman

Zane Erickson


Vasily Grossman, born December 12, 1905 and died September 14, 1964. Grossman spent his life as a Soviet journalist and writer. During WWII Grossman became a war correspondent for Red Army Newspaper, where he wrote first hand accounts of battles of WWII. Grossmans mother was killed in 1941, by the Nazi movement in Germany. One of Grossmans first writing accounts was of a Nazi Concentration Camp. Grossman was decorated as a Legendary War Hero for his first hand accounts of the war.
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The second World War took place from 1939 to 1945. Fought between the ally and axis nations. WWII was the most widespread war in human history. It is estimated that WWII caused the deaths of 85 Million people, making it one of the deadliest conflicts in human history. World War II also included the movement of the Nazi or The National Socialist German Workers' Party in which the Nazis exterminated almost six million Jewish men and women, along with other minorities.
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Grossman takes his readers on a bleak but true journey through account of the battle of Stalingrad with the story of a single middle-class family, the Shaposhnikovs. Grossman takes us through the hardships of this family to give the reader a sense of how the common family was effected by the great war. On the other side of the book we see the effect on soldiers, how the war affects them and the general combat side of the war, its effect on the men who fought and you get to see Grossman change as a person throughout the book.


“…I am the supporting tanks and artillery. “I am the flare lighting up our common cause. And then suddenly I am alone – and everything that was isolated and weak has fused into a solid roar of enemy rifle-fire, machine-gun fire and artillery fire. This united enemy is now invincible; the only safety lies in my flight, in hiding my head, in covering my shoulders, my forehead, my jaw . . .” This quote describes the harsh reality of war and the things the soldiers must deal with.

“Every day was the same. There was nothing left in the world but this battered earth and this blazing sky.” This quote describes how bleak things become after being at war, how it can affect people.

“Good men and bad men alike are capable of weakness. The difference is simply that a bad man will be proud all his life of one good deed - while an honest man is hardly aware of his good acts, but remembers a single sin for years on end” People can be changed by war, reading this quote enough times in context shows how much war changes people.

Writers Purpose

I believe that Grossman put together this memoir to inform people of the horrors of war. Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman examines war and the effects of war. Not just the effects on the government or physical form of the countries, but the effects of war on soldiers. He wanted to show the world that war is not how it is depicted in propaganda posters, it is a much harsher reality than that. The memoir is not a happy story but it is one that Grossman knows must be told.


The truth about war is the most apparent theme in the book. Grossman tells the world the ugly truth about war, and a sub theme to that is that war can destroy people. These men come back to society with a warped world view, one that they cannot change. This is something that today governments try to fix, by offering therapy to their soldier who requires it. War destroys people, Vasily Grossman addressed this for one of the first time in his book, and he may have led to the creation of modern programs that help soldiers. It is extremely possible that without Grossmans works we may not have the same world that we have today.


Flare, Flash of light- Usually from gunfire or flares or lanterns in the night. In my opinion these flashes of light on someones face is like a flashback. A gun firing produces a flash on someones face and for a split second you can see who they used to be in the pre-war world.

Clouds- Clouds represent the gloom that war puts on people, whenever there is no sun or some type of clouded over weather I see that as the effect war has on people, and how they are not happy anymore due to what they have been through.

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My initial reaction to this book was shock, no books that I have read before in school tell the story of WWII from this perspective, headlines ripped straight from the battlefield. But now just that, headlines that were not altered. Grossman was a pioneer in my mind, he created a series of memoirs which the world had not seen before. Without him we may not have the memoirs we have today that describe our wars. My final reaction is one of respect, Grossman did a job that was not pretty but it needed to be done.


If you want a happy and uplifting book that tells you a happy story than this book is not for you. However if you want a gritty and accurate historical account than this book is what you want to read. No details are spared, everything is told to the reader from a first person perspective at the foot of the battlefield. Grossman tells you the truth and nothing but, the reader must prepare themselves for that.

Letter to the author

Dear, Vasily Grossman,

I want to commend you for your brave work on Life and Fate. You tread into war as just a journalist, someone hoping to make it big with a story. But you made it bigger than you can imagine, decorated as a war hero for your works of literature and the way that you described the Great War. You may not be around today to see the influence your works completely had on the world, but they have had a huge one. You may have very well re invented the memoir, instead of just telling a story you placed your readers in the war and showed them the true reality, a reality they may not want to know, but it is extremely important for the people to know. So thank you Mr. Grossman.

Sincerely, Zane Erickson