Tuesday, November 12, 2019

BBC Radio 4 Adaptation of Stalingrad by Vasily Grossman to air soon

From the BBC article:
Kenneth Branagh, Greta Scacchi, Mark Bonnar, Ann Mitchell, Doon Mackichan, Kenneth Cranham and more star in a dark and honest account of the epic battle of Stalingrad by celebrated war reporter and author, Vasily Grossman.

  • Two part drama based on war reporter Vasily Grossman’s account also stars Greta Scacchi and Mark Bonnar
  • Anton Lesser reads Grossman’s private journal - translated into English for the first time - in a Book Of The Week special
Translated by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler, Stalingrad is a prequel to Grossman’s novel Life And Fate which was adapted by Radio 4 in 2011 and featuring many of the same acclaimed cast.


To accompany the adaption Radio 4 also gives over Book Of The Week to Stalingrad: Destiny Of A Novel; featuring readings from Grossman's private journal, translated here for the first time ever, chronicling his novel's tortuous progress through Soviet censorship from 1950-53. A period when Stalin's last campaign of terror was unfolding against his own Jewish population. Written and presented by author and historian Catherine Merridale, with readings by Anton Lesser, the five-part series tells the dramatic backstory behind the novel and the beginnings of Grossman’s own journey towards Soviet heresy. He was canny enough to keep a personal diary of the process of submitting his manuscript, translated into English for the first time it reveals the beginnings of a maddening journey that became an epic battle of wills. Detailing the pressure of Soviet forces attempting to censor Grossman, and the changing tides of approval and disapproval he faced from his comrades.

If it works like the Life and Fate adaptation, the broadcast will be available to listen to (and maybe download) for a brief time after the air dates at the BBC Radio 4 site.

The Life and Fate adaptation was well done and I really enjoyed it, so I'm excited to see the Stalingrad adaptation. My biggest concern, though, is that it will be only four hours long. That is a lot of material to compress into such a short period of time, so obviously there will be cuts to the story. Regardless, congratulations once again to Robert and Elizabeth Chandler for their translation and making this available in print so the adaptation could be done.

The readings from Grossman's journal should be fascinating as well, although it will probably go through some of the same material covered in Vasily Grossman and the Soviet Century by Alexandra Popoff. I'll be listening anyway. I'll try and remember to post on it again as the episodes air. Spread the word!

Transmission details
Saturday 30 November, 2.45-4.45pm
Sunday 1 December, 3-5pm

Stalingrad: Destiny Of A Novel
Monday 2 December, 9.45-10am (1/5)

"Robert Chandler talks about Vasily Grossman and how he (Robert) and his wife Elizabeth went about translating the novel Stalingrad."

Update 2:
I've linked this elsewhere, but I want to include this here, too. For more on Grossman, see Yury Bit-Yunan and Robert Chandler's article Vasily Grossman: Myths and Counter-Myths on sorting out facts of Grossman's life from “Soviet intelligentsia folklore."


Jean said...

Well, this is cool. I don't know how I'm ever to listen to all this stuff, but I'd like to give it a go.

I have Writer at War at home now, waiting its turn, but the biography will be available to me soon too. Which to read first? Or do I read Ivan's War for more background, or Isaac Babel's Red Cavalry cycle? Reading the fringes of Soviet history that I manage to collect is a lifelong project. I also have Judgement in Moscow, two Anne Applebaums, two more Alexievches, that one about the House of the Dead...and several about the destruction of the great Jewish libraries, and others... O.O

Dwight said...

Wow, nice stack. Wait, that sounds inappropriate, doesn't it?

I don't think the order matters, you'll appreciate all of those. I'd probably go in roughly chronological order of the material and start with Babel. His stories are powerful and I loved them. You'll find a lot of overlap between Writer at War and the biography, so I'd just choose one for now and get to the other one later...both are great. (I'd go with Grossman and the Soviet Century first since she covers all of his life and it's interesting to see how much of his experiences make it into his writing, and not just from the war period. All of Applebaum's books have been good, and I hope to make it to Alexievich's books soon.