Kenneth Branagh Stars in Radio Dramatization of Epic Soviet Novel, Life and Fate (Free Audio)

Le Monde has called Life and Fate “the great­est Russ­ian nov­el of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry,” and Mar­tin Amis once described its author, Vasi­ly Gross­man, as “the Tol­stoy of the USSR.” Now, if you haven’t read the nov­el, you can begin to under­stand the rea­son for all of the high praise.

Start­ing this week, the BBC will air an eight-hour drama­ti­za­tion of the mas­ter­piece that offered a sweep­ing account of the siege of Stal­in­grad, one of the blood­i­est bat­tles of World War II. Although orig­i­nal­ly writ­ten in 1959, the book was offi­cial­ly cen­sored in the Sovi­et Union until 1988 because, in the esti­ma­tion of the appa­ratchiks, it threat­ened to do more harm to the USSR than Paster­nak’s Doc­tor Zhiva­go.

Ken­neth Branagh and David Ten­nant star in the 13-episode series that will be broad­cast from 18 to 25 Sep­tem­ber on Radio 4. You can access the audio files online or via iTues, RSS Feed, and oth­er for­mats here.

For more drama­ti­za­tions of lit­er­ary clas­sics, please vis­it:

Aldous Hux­ley Reads Dra­ma­tized Ver­sion of Brave New World

HG Wells’ The War of the Worlds Nar­rat­ed by Orson Welles

Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free

50 Clas­sic Russ­ian Films (Includ­ing Tarkovsky’s Finest) Now Online

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  • Evan says:

    It is a bit awk­ward, to my mind, to char­ac­ter­ize Gross­man as a “Sovi­et,” despite his time report­ing along­side the Red Army and his sup­port for the rev­o­lu­tion. Cer­tain­ly, he was a cit­i­zen of the Sovi­et Union and would have called him­self Sovi­et — but as a writer he was an ardent oppo­nent of “co-voice” ideas like col­lec­tiviza­tion and total­i­tar­i­an con­trol.

    As a Jew and the son of a Men­she­vik, he and many of those close to him (his wife, for exam­ple) were targeted/arrested by the gov­ern­ment dur­ing the Great Purge and the post-war anti-Semit­ic pogroms insti­gat­ed by Stal­in.

    If Gross­man can be called a Sovi­et, then he was an ear­ly-Sovi­et along the lines of Gorky or per­haps Bul­gakov (and lat­er, Solzhen­it­syn). He and his work was heav­i­ly cen­sured and cen­sored by Sovi­et author­i­ties. “Sovi­et” is a word bur­dened with the atroc­i­ties of Stal­in and the tur­moil of the Cold War.

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