By Vasily Grossman
Paperback booklet. heritage. purple military
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Extra info for A Writer at War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army 1941-1945
Grossman, along with his companions, was present at the destruction of Gomel, then they had to flee south as General Guderian’s 2nd Panzer Group swung round in the vast encirclement operation to cut off Kiev. The German armies captured more than 600,000 prisoners in the most crushing victory ever known. Early that October, Grossman was attached to the headquarters of General Petrov’s 50th Army. His descriptions of this general, who punched underlings and turned aside from his tea and raspberry jam to sign death sentences, read like a terrible satire of the Red Army, but they are devastatingly accurate.
A few seconds later, the covered platform is ours, and the bitch with the rank of doctor is screaming in a frightened way and disappears very quickly. This is our first taste of fighting. We arrive in Gomel. The train stops very far from the railway station, so we have a painful walk along the track in the dark. One has to crawl under the carriages to cross railways. I bang my forehead on them and stumble; my damned suitcase turns out to be extremely heavy. Finally we reach the station building.
A Red Army soldier with a beard. ’ Ganakovich – a wonderful man – puffing on his pipe, radiating waves of calmness and common sense. He is sad sometimes, and likes to sit alone. He sits thinking for a long, long time. He uses colourful language. ‘Well, I remember the cavalry from 1914. ’ Battle at night. Cannonade. Field guns bang, shells howl, first in a shrill tone, then humming like wind. Barking of mines. A lot of rapid, white fire. The tap dance of machine guns and rifles is the most disturbing.