By Vasily Grossman, Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler, Yury Bit-Yunan

An NYRB Classics Original

Few writers needed to confront as a number of the final century’s mass tragedies as Vasily Grossman, who wrote with terrifying readability concerning the Shoah, the conflict of Stalingrad, and the phobia Famine within the Ukraine. An Armenian Sketchbook, notwithstanding, exhibits us a really varied Grossman, amazing for his tenderness, heat, and experience of fun.
      
After the  Soviet executive confiscated—or, as Grossman continuously placed it, “arrested”—Life and Fate, he took at the activity of revising a literal Russian translation of a protracted Armenian novel. the radical used to be of little curiosity to him, yet he wanted funds and was once obviously joyful of an excuse to trip to Armenia. An Armenian Sketchbook is his account of the 2 months he spent there.
      
This is through a ways the main own and intimate of Grossman’s works, endowed with an air of absolute spontaneity, as if he's easily chatting to the reader approximately his impressions of Armenia—its mountains, its historical church buildings, its people—while additionally reading his personal techniques and moods. a perfectly human account of shuttle to a far flung position, An Armenian Sketchbook additionally has the vibrant allure of a self-portrait

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No one has yet carried out a detailed comparison of Grossman’s “translation” with the Armenian original, but it seems likely that Grossman put a great deal of himself into the final Russian version. His version ends with a soldier telling a young woman by the name of Anik that the Germans are gone. Anik, who is pregnant, feels her child moving inside her; hearing the sound of distant artillery, she momentarily imagines that they are firing a salute in honor of this child. It would be hard to imagine a more “Grossman-like” ending; the tension between motherhood and human destructiveness is a central theme throughout his work.

At present he is lecturing on literary criticism at the the Russian State University for the Humanities while continuing to research Grossman’s life and work. V. B. Guber Translation and notes copyright © 2013 by Robert Chandler All rights reserved. An Armenian Sketchbook is translated from the text of Dobro vam published in Vasily Grossman, Sobranie sochinenii v 4-h tomakh (Moscow: Agraf, 1998). Cover image: Vasily Grossman in Armenia, with ruins of the Hellenistic temple of Garni in the background Cover design: Katy Homans The Library of Congress has cataloged the earlier printing as follows: Grossman, Vasilii, 1905–1964.

It is time we recognized that all men are brothers. Reactionaries seek to excise and destroy the deepest and most essentially human aspects of a nation’s character; they promulgate its most inhuman and superficial aspects. They prefer the husk to the kernel. When they promulgate nationalism, reactionaries try to destroy what people share at a deep level; they recognize only what people share at the most superficial level. Reactionaries worship what they see as the national type—and this worship of everything merely national fused with a contempt for more essential qualities is as absurd and ugly as the caricatures of Armenians that you hear in a Russian barrack room; it is the same phenomenon, with a plus sign instead of a minus sign.

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