July 01, 2019


A downed German Messerschmidt BF109. Colorization by Olga Shirnina (read below about her images).

This is a short excerpt from the first-ever English translation (by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler) of Grossman’s epic novel of the turning point in World War II. The second part of Grossman’s story, Life and Fate, is widely considered one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century.

Darensky woke shortly before dawn. He listened for a moment – the rumble of guns and the hum of planes had not stopped. Usually the hour before dawn is war’s quiet hour – the time when night’s darkness and fear draw to an end, when sentries doze off, when the severely wounded stop screaming and at last close their eyes. It is the time when fever subsides and sweat comes out on the skin, when birds begin to stir, when sleeping babies stretch towards the breast of their sleeping mothers. It is the last hour of sleep, when soldiers cease to feel the hard, lumpy ground beneath them and pull their greatcoats over their heads, unaware of the white film of frost now covering their buttons and belt buckles.

But there was no longer any such thing as a quiet hour. In the darkness before dawn planes were still humming and troops still passing by. There was the rumble of heavy vehicles and the sound of artillery fire and exploding bombs in the distance.

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An excerpt from a forthcoming translation of Grossman's monumental novel.

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