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The Fixers jEd by what happened to Jews and other prominent intellectuals but he didn t openly oppose it either he didn t speak out when they were relieved of their posts when they were ostracised etcWorkers in a Soviet GulagThroughout the opening stages of the book Grossman explores complicity in its different forms He suggests that Nikolay was complicit in his inaction in his reluctance to uestion the Party line but most of all in his attempts toustify himself or lie to himself in order to have some peace of mind It is a familiar story that those caught up in such large scale abuses of power find it difficult to believe or accept what is actually happening they doubt what they see or make excuses for it because the truth is so awful and if accepted the truth of things that entirely innocent people are being systematically brutalised and murdered necessitates action because only a bad person could do nothing in the face of such horror which is the last thing that most people want they do not want to have to fight or opposeIf challenged those guilty of the complicity of inaction are likely to argue that they are but one man so what can or could they do or have done They also abdicate responsibility to the State or to authority It was not I it was them I trusted them to do the right thingand so when they told me that such and such was guilty of a crime I believed them I see this kind of passivity this passing on of responsibility in the face of disgraceful authoritarian action this moral weakness all the time How many times have you heard the phrase there s no smoke without fire applied to criminal cases The idea is that if someone is accused of something there must be a reason for it even if we cannot see it ourselves It isn t that people really believe the State is infallible it is simply that it is easier to think so to tell yourself so The criminals had after all confessed during the trialsthey had been uestioned in public by a man with a university degreethere had been no doubt about their guilt not a shadow of a doubt After leaving Nikolay s house Ivan crosses paths with Pinegin who is the man responsible for denouncing him Pinegin worries that Ivan knows that it was him but assures himself that he is imagining it Here the emphasis is not on what people will allow to happen what they passively sanction but what ordinary human beings are actually capable of I wrote in my review of Tadeusz Borowski s This Way for the Gas Ladies Gentlemen that we comfort ourselves with the thought that we would never actively participate in mass oppression but normal people did and do Grossman explores in detail why that is the case Why do ordinary people condemn or murder for their governments Are they evil No unfortunately not Evil as a concept is I m afraid simply another comfort blanketSome participate in order to get ahead in order to prosper If you help to oppress another group not only can you take what is theirs but there is less competition for what is not for obs etc There is also the pleasant feeling of being useful to the State of being valued by the State People like to be praised they like to think that they are important or necessary In Russia at the time people wanted to serve Stalin they admired him loved him even In terms of Pinegin he denounced Ivan not because he hated him but because that is what the State asked of him he was Grossman suggests simply following orders or doing his duty It isn t one could argue for the common man to make these kinds of decisions about what is right and wrong and fair or unfair that is the responsibility of the State For me there is an interesting subtext to all this which is that morality is changeable is malleable and so if a State or an authority decide that someone is guilty then they become guilty It does not matter if another authority would declare them innocent Therefore those who participated in the functioning and application of that authority were also innocent were in fact in the right because they were behaving in accordance with the laws rules and culture of their societyMost of what I have discussed so far is found in the first fifty or so pages For me this was the strongest section of the book Beyond those first fifty pages the storyline disappears somewhat and Ivan gets lost among a series of admittedly very engaging essays ranging from the nature of freedom and hope to collectivisation and a number of chapters dedicated to understanding Lenin and his role in what followed him Therefore as a novel as a work of fiction Everything Flows is a bit of a mess is in all honesty not successful at all Life Fate also includes philosophical essays but they ride alongside a well crafted narrative are fully integrated into the text This is not however too serious a criticism especially when one remembers that the book was unfinished at the time of Grossman S Death One Assumes That If s death one assumes that if had had time he might have developed Ivan s story so that it would not simply trail offMore of an issue is that Grossman s treatment of the Russian peasantry and the oppressed is romanticised so that it has almost a propagandistic flavour indeed I felt as though I as the reader was being manipulated somewhat For example during the chapter on collectivisation which is I might add possibly the most harrowing and upsetting thing I have ever read Grossman writes about one mother reading fairy tales to her starving dying children in an effort to distract them from *their pain All the oppressed people throughout the book are so lovingly described they are all so gentle * pain All the oppressed people throughout the book are so lovingly described they are all so gentle noble so kind and patient and forbearing in their suffering that it ust does not ring true They are like Ivan like Prince Myshkin Christ like they are representations of The Russi The Experience of ExileHomer got it wrong in the Odyssey at least for modern folk The real suffering and trauma of exile occurs not in the time away from one s homeland but upon return Living with fixed memories no matter how accurate means disappointment in proportion to the time away for both the traveller and the keepers of the hearth Stay away long enough say thirty years or so and whatever commonality that existed is dissipated by the winds of unshared experience No energy remains in old relationships What does remain is a designation empty of any real meaning countryman neighbour friend relative have no pragmatic importThus whatever it was that kept one going in the trials of exile voluntary or not is a self preserving fiction It may be necessary for psychic survival but it becomes false by the day The uantum of change is too small to be noticed on a trip away from home to the shops or the daily commute to work but the effect emerges into the macro world when things seem different at home upon returning from holiday or visiting from university The rooms seem smaller the conversations less interesting the family suabbles annoying These are not inaccurate sensations They are the result of becoming incrementally objective about life The rooms are small the conversations banal and the family insufferable The Last Surrender just as the returning prodigal appears alien and incomprehensibleThe trauma of return is therefore notust experiential it is existential Exile may threaten one s life return compromises one s identity Survival is likely to be a matter of physical endurance psychic integrity is likely to depend on entirely unrecognised and unused aspects of character The home comer is a threat to those he returns to because they imagine how they appear to him they thereby become marginally objective about themselves This is never flattering Weaknesses ignored guilt denied knowledge of betrayals suppressed all bubble into consciousness The returning exile can also see what ignored guilt denied knowledge of betrayals suppressed all bubble into consciousness The returning exile can also see what can t the lost potential of not ust the people he knows but of an entire society Unknown even to him he has been creating expectations extrapolating improvements None of these have materialised His insight about lost opportunities causes everyone pain He therefore must be kept in exile even at home This is something Odysseus apparently never was forced to endure Grossman s Ivan that is to say Grossman himself is the truly tragic modern figure of those for whom home has disappeared entirel. The camps and Anna Sergeyevna Ivan's lover who tells of her involvement as an activist in the Terror famine of 1932 3 Everything Flows is Vasily Grossman's final testament written after the Soviet authorities suppressed Life and Fate'Vasily Grossman is the Tolstoy of the USSR' Martin Amis.


This is very powerfull and frightfull text It s actually a verdict then a novel A verdict to the Stalin s regime Stalin dies old broken bald man is freed from one of the Stalin s labour camps and Forever flowing is his thoughts while he stumbles across this Moscow and Leningrad world of not imprisoned people which he did not see for 20 years He meets the man who sold him he meets his old love who forgot him he meets his brother who found a way to succeed inside Stalin regime he learns the way they live and he remembers all turtures he and other people at the camp had to go through and he tries to understand how all this happened how it became possible to kill and torture mililons of people and he sees in front of him all thousand year history of slavery and lack of freedom in Russiahe sees Lenin and Stalin s role in it and he predicts that Soviet regime will collapse very soon and freedom will winThe book was written shortly after Stalin s death when Grossman himself was released from a labour camp Soviets confiscated manuscript of Forever flowing Grossman tried to get it back but failed Soviet prime minister Suslov gave him an audiende and told him about another his book Life and fate that it can be published only in 200 300 years not earlier Grossman wrote Forever flowing for a second time and it was distrubuted through underground press it became an impulse for Andrey Tarkovsky to film his main masterpiece Mirror and in the end Grossman as we know now was right regime collapsed much faster then 200 years Surprised to learn that this was incomplete because it didn t feel that way upon reading Recently finished both Stalingrad and Life and Fate this novel is ust as powerful but emotive philosophical In some ways a cruel read than the previous twoAnother 5 star read A very moving account of the horrors of Bolshevism and Stalinism in RussiaThe chapter that touched me the most was the story of a young mother who was taken away from her mother and child to Siberia where she eventually dies of disease and despair No decent human being could fail to be moved by this account of a nightmare that really happened It is told in the rich literary style that can only come from a Russian writer bringing to life the horrors of Communist tyranny and the beauty of Russian life that survived it Introduction Everything Flows NotesChronologyA Note on Collectivisation and the Terror FaminePeople Places and OrganisationsBiographical NoteFurther ReadingAcknowledgementsAn Afterword by Yekaterina Korotkova Grossman Vasily Grossman was a writer of uniue genius a great war correspondent and an even greater novelist Earlier this year I read Life and Fate a panoramic novel set in the Second World War I don t think I ve ever been as overwhelmed by a work of fiction at least not since I read Dostoevsky s Crime and Punishment It s an astonishing tour de force a description of people and places and events delivered with freshness and stunning insight Even before I finished I offered the following comment As a novel it is also intensely honest making no allowances for the ideological shibboleths of his day so honest that the book was arrested yes arrested by the KGB in the early 1960s Grossman was subseuently summoned to the office of Mikhail Suslov the chief ideologue of the Khrushchev and Brezhnev years who told him that the book could not be published for another two or three hundred years an act of extreme censorship coupled with a paradoxical recognition of its lasting importance Fortunately a copy of the manuscript was smuggled out to the West where it was published and hailed as a work of geniusSadly Grossman was unable to enjoy his literary triumph he died of stomach cancer in Moscow in 1964 At the point of his death he had no reason to suppose that Suslov s prediction was not true that it would take two centuries for his great work to emerge from the ideological shadows But he was already working on another novel a novel that could not have been published in the old Soviet Union in two millennia never mind two centuries This is Everything Flows which I finished today in one feverish sitting stopping only to top up my tea from the samovar Yes Everything Flows is a novel unfinished at the time of the author s death but it s also a kind of testament a political and philosophical indictment not ust of the moral corruption of communism but of Russia itself of that dark place in the Russian soul that forever eschews freedom in favour of slavery The that dark place in the Russian soul that forever eschews freedom in favour of slavery The is trenchant Life and Fate could be taken in large part as a demolition of Stalinism an altogether honest testament that Khrushchev s Secret Speech But Everything Flows goes deeper it goes so far as Lenin still sleeping away in Red Suare the supreme icon of national servitude For a moment for the briefest of seasons in the spring of 1917 Russia scented freedom The path lay open Russia chose Lenin who came not to liberate the country but to refine and amplify the most regressive features of *ITS HISTORY AND SO IT WAS THAT LENIN S * history And so it was that Lenin s with revolution his fanatical faith in the truth of Marxism and the absolute intolerance of any dissent all led him to advance hugely the development of the Russia he hated with all of his fanatical soulDid Lenin ever imagine the true conseuences of his revolution Did he ever imagine that it would not simply be a matter of Russia now leading the way rather than as had been predicted following behind a socialist Europe Did he ever imagine that what his revolution would liberate was Russian slavery itself that his revolution would enable Russian slavery to spread beyond the confines of Russia to become a torch lighting a new path for humanity Russian history paradoxically went into reverse Stalin uickened the process taking it as far as it would go substituting freedom with the most abject forms of state worship something that had not been seen since the days of Ivan the Terrible By the 1930s the time of collectivisation the time of the Terror Famine the time when the state deliberately starved millions of its own citizens to death the Russian peasantry was completely enslaved than it ever had been under the Tsars It s almost as if Alexander II the Liberator the man who ended serfdom had never lived That was the legacy of the RevolutionThere is a witness here a man who filters these thoughts through his head He is Ivan Grigoryevich His freedom died earlier than most Sent to the camps as a young man he returns thirty years later a ghost from the past a husk of a ruined life Stalin is dead but there has been no proper reckoning there never will be a reckoning Such reckoning as there is comes only as an act of moral and historical reflection There are those that Grigorivich left behind like his cousin Nikolay a mediocrity who prospered in a time of mediocrity and bad faith This ghost is not entirely welcome neither by Nikolay nor by his wife both of whom remained free insofar as freedom involved all sorts of shabby compromises This is a theme this guilt come resentment that Solzhenitsyn was to take up in Cancer Ward These are the little people the beetle people who prospered at the expense of those far talented who died or disappearedThe novel ranges over some of the tragedy looked at in simple human as well as grand historical terms There is the tragedy of the Terror Famine told by Anna Sergeyevna Grigorivich s lover full of guilt for the part she played How the kulaks suffered In order to kill them it was necessary to declare that the kulaks are not human beings Just as the Germans said that the Yids are not human beings That s what Lenin and Stalin said too The kulaks are not human beings But that s a lie They are people I can see now that we are all human beings There is the tragedy of Vasily Timofeyvich Ganna his beloved wife and Grishenka their infant son explored in a brief and incredibly poignant chapter killed by starvation lying in their hut over the winter not separated even by death There is the tragedy of Masha arrested in 1937 at the height of the Great Terror madness within madness simply for being married to a man that the state had declared guilty Separated from her husband and her child she was sent to the gulags convinced th. 'Everything Flows is as important a novel as anything written by Solzhenitsyn and Robert Chandler's superb translation makes it a oy to read'Antony BeevorIvan Grigoryevich has been in the Gulag for thirty years Released after Stalin's death he finds that the years of terror have imposed .
At it was all a mistake that her sentence would be revoked that they would all meet again never to be separated In the end hope died A year later Masha left the camp Before returning to freedom she lay for a while on some pine planks in a freezing hut No one tried to hurry her out to work and no one abused her The medical orderlies placed Masha Lyubimova in a rectangular box made from boards that the timber inspectors had rejected for any other use This was the last time anyone looked on her face On it was a sweet childish expression of delight and confusion the same look as when she had stood by the timber store and listened to the merry music first with The Rescuer joy then with the realisation that all hope had vanished This could have been an angry book a bitter one the anger caused by so much betrayal the anger of history the anger of an author whose life s work had been frustrated But it s not it s a bold moving and scrupulously honest book a story told on a number of narrative levels a story told with simplicity insight and tremendous clarity It stands as a noble testament If you love Russia if you love the past if you love the truth if you love freedom I urge you to read this If you can do so without descending at points into tears then you have far greater powers of emotional control than I have than I will ever have Everything Flows is a great work of literature It is an even greater tribute to the human spirit A man returns home after thirty years in the gulag He is prematurely aged and unfamiliar with the modern world How will he fit in after such a long time away time spent in a dehumanizing hell hole He meets up with his cousin and bumps into an old friend in the street Both have built succesful lives for themselves whilst Ivan has been in the camps and they feel embarassed and guilty at their relative good fortune the friend doubly so as unbeknownst to Ivan it was he who had denounced himIvan looks for his sweetheart from the time before his arrest but finds out that she had married and moved awayIvan finds aob which gives his life some focus and purpose and he finds love with his landlady Even that is snafches away from himGrossman uses the book to show us other lives affected by Stalin s repression the callous arbitrary nature of the clampdown and the layers of complicity and betrayal inherent in an often random uota system based on the whims of the dictator We also get forays into essays on the nature of the Soviet system A bit strange to see in a novel but somehow it worksIn the end Ivan finds peace and acceptanceAn excellent portrayal of the human cost of the Georgian monstrr This is a brave and thoughtful account of the Stalin years Admittedly Grossman wrote this documentary style fiction well after Stalin s death when it had become possible to acknowledge that mistakes had been made However he knew from his experience of trying to get his previous book past the censor that the freedom to write the truth was still far from possible in tightly controlled KGB run soviet Russia This book unpublished in his lifetime provides an insight into the psychology of the soviet citizen seemingly willing to obey the most illogical of orders without uestion and to take punishment even when not guilty all in the name of the greater good Grossman analyses the culture of denunciation of neighbours colleagues and even friends who were then shipped off to the camps for decades He highlights the ease with which people find Happy Family justifications for their actions and examines with huge sensitivity such diverse themes as man s propensity for violence as well as his unremitting uest for freedom This is not a novel but as another reviewer has uite rightly pointed out a verdict Nor is it complete Vasily Grossman began it in 1955 and was still revising it during his last days in the hospital in September 1964 Grossman was also one of the first witnesses of the conseuences of the Holocaust He published The Hell of Treblinka in Russia the firstournalistic account of a German death camp in any language He even published a non fictional account of World War II called A Writer at War Vasily Grossman with the Red Army from the Russian point of viewBut his masterpiece undeniably is Life and Fate which was completed in 1960 Life and Fate eventually after its publication was termed as War and Peace of this century the most complete portrait of Stalinist Russia we are ever likely to have The manuscript of Life And Fate was confiscated by the KGB in 1961 Not even one scrap of paper was spared during confiscation But as luck would have it Vladimir Voinovich a well known
*russian satirist obtained *
satirist obtained copy of the manuscript somehow copied it on a microfilm and smuggled it out of Russia to the West Everything Flows loosely follows a character named Ivan Grigoryevich who was sent to the Gulags at the height of Stalinist purges 30 years later after the death of Stalin most of the prisoners were released citing the detached reason that they were all wrongfully imprisoned Ivan s ourney to rediscover his lost years in the free state is very disturbing Grossman dwells on submission to state terror by its people than on Ivan s ourney though The reasons put forth are very disconcerting and actually makes one think about the possibility of something like this happening again in any corner of the modern world I am not much into making people read what I feel is great but in this case I would urge every book lover to read the much under appreciated works of Vasily Grossman These are truly life changing books Please read them It was with trepidation that I picked this up Vasily Grossman s Life Fate is the only book I have ever snapped shut not out of boredom or irritation or a desire to read something else but out of fear a fear of what I would be exposed to and how it would affect me More than once as I carried it around with me during the day fitting in a few pages here and there I made a fool of myself in public especially at work during breaks sitting there damp about the eyes with a pained expression on my face and a lower lip starting to tremble I had visions as I came to read Everything Flows of being solemnly escorted out of the building a broken man my head resting on the ample bosom of a stout motherly woman what s wrong with him my colleagues will ask her I have no idea He was In Seconds (Bulletproof, just reading a book As one would expect of a book that onlyust breaches 200 pages Everything Flows is much narrower in focus in terms of its basic storyline and less epic and panoramic than Grossman s masterpiece it was over unfinished at the time of the author s death which perhaps accounts for how episodic it is The man tying these episodes together is Ivan Grigoryevich who has ust been released from prison after a total of 29 years following the death of Joseph Stalin The passing of Uncle Joe is significant because it led to the overturning of many unsound convictions including in this instance Ivan s and this this acceptance by the State that people had been locked up and murdered on trumped up charges meant that ordinary Russians had some uncomfortable truths to confront not only about how their government had behaved but in terms of their own guilt or culpability also The sea was not freedom it was A LIKENESS OF FREEDOM A SYMBOL OF FREEDOMHOW SPLENDID likeness of freedom a symbol of freedomHow splendid must be if a mere likeness of it a mere reminder of it is enough to fill a man with happiness What is most striking about Ivan is that although he is so central to the plot he is as a character almost non existent He is described as a once sensitive timid and shy child and despite his experiences in labour camps he has maintained a reserved bearing calmness and politeness so much so that other characters think him odd or na ve or simply stupid Much like Prince Myshkin In Dostoevsky S The Idiot It Is Through This in Dostoevsky s The Idiot it is through this man through their interactions with him that others reveal their baser tendencies or weaknesses or flaws Take his cousin Nikolay a scientist who Ivan first visits upon his release Nikolay has a guilty conscience for he had not been denounced or arrested he had in fact prospered under Stalin He could not be said to have been entirely in favour of what went down in fact he was much troubl. Collective moral slavery He must struggle to find a place for himself in an unfamiliar world Grossman tells the stories of those people entwined with Ivan's fate his cousin Nikolay a scientist who never let his conscience interfere with his career Pinegin the informer who had Ivan sent to.
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