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authorities to be so dangerous that the KGB placed the manuscript under arrest and Grossman was informed his book would not be published for at least 200 years.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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Painfully well done
- Eleanor Corner
Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate