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Everything Flows Is Vasily Grossman S Final Testament, Written After The Soviet Authorities Suppressed His Masterpiece, Life And Fate The Main Story Is Simple Released After Thirty Years In The Soviet Camps, Ivan Grigoryevich Must Struggle To Find A Place For Himself In An Unfamiliar World But In A Novel That Seeks To Take In The Whole Tragedy Of Soviet History, Ivan S Story Is Only One Among Many Thus We Also Hear About Ivan S Cousin, Nikolay, A Scientist Who Never Let His Conscience Interfere With His Career, And Pinegin, The Informer Who Got Ivan Sent To The CampsThen A Brilliant Short Play Interrupts The Narrative A Series Of Informers Steps Forward, Each Making Excuses For The Inexcusable Things That He Did Inexcusable And Yet, The Informers Plead, In Stalinist Russia Understandable, Almost UnavoidableAnd At The Core Of The Book, We Find The Story Of Anna Sergeyevna, Ivan S Lover, Who Tells About Her Eager Involvement As An Activist In The Terror Famine Of, Which Led To The Deaths Of Three To Five Million Ukrainian Peasants Here Everything Flows Attains An Unbearable Lucidity Comparable To The Last Cantos Of Dante S Inferno


10 thoughts on “Всё течёт

  1. says:

    Vasily Grossman was a writer of unique 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 subsequently 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office of Mikhail Suslov, the chief ideologue of the Khrushchev and Brezhnev years, who told him that the book could not be published for another two or three hundred years, an act of extreme censorship coupled with a paradoxical recognition of its lasting importance Fortunately, a copy of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 genius.Sadly 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 just 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 criticism 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 Square, 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 obsession 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 soul Did Lenin ever imagine the true consequences 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 quickened 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 Revolution.There 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 disappeared.The 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 that 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 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.


  2. says:

    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 just reading a book As one would expect of a book that only just 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 just 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 freedom How splendid freedom 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 meek 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 troubled 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, etc Workers in a Soviet Gulag Throughout 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 question the Party line, but most of all in his attempts to justify 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 oppose.If 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 thing and 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 trials they had been questioned in public by a man with a university degree there 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 blanket.Some 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 jobs, 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 society.Most 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 he had had time, he might have developed Ivan s story so that it would not simply trail off.More 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, so noble, so kind and patient and forbearing in their suffering that it just does not ring true They are, like Ivan, like Prince Myshkin, Christ like, they are representations of The Russian Soul For the record, I want to point out that my sympathy is entirely with them, with the ill treated, with the genuine, real victims of Stalinism in fact, there is a certain level of guilt accompanying my words here, but I am trying to approach the book as literature and, as such, Everything Flows is a failure But, then, I guess that a believable, successful novel was never really Grossman s aim what he wanted to do was try to understand what had happened to his beautiful country, his beautiful people, and so one can overlook, even admire, a touch of sentimentality For a book that had such a powerful emotional and intellectual hold on me, I do not want to end on a criticism I said to someone the other day that Vasily Grossman had a simple, direct way of getting to the heart of everything, that I find very moving And on that note I ll finish up with something from the text, something simple and direct, and pretty fucking devastating


  3. says:

    Introduction Everything Flows NotesChronologyA Note on Collectivisation and the Terror FaminePeople, Places and OrganisationsBiographical NoteFurther ReadingAcknowledgementsAn Afterword by Yekaterina Korotkova Grossman


  4. says:

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  5. says:

    This is not a novel but as another reviewer has quite 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 consequences of the Holocaust He published The Hell of Treblinka in Russia, the first journalistic 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 view.But 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 a 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 journey 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 journey 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.


  6. says:

    A very moving account of the horrors of Bolshevism and Stalinism in Russia.The 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


  7. says:

    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 question 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 justifications for their actions and examines with huge sensitivity such diverse themes as man s propensity for violence as well as his unremitting quest for freedom.


  8. says:

    Ivan Grigor evi , quasi trent anni in un lager sovietico, alla morte di Stalin viene liberato e torna al cospetto dei vivi, di coloro che erano rimasti nelle loro citt , nelle loro case Senza accusare nessuno, fa vacillare le loro coscienze, sigillate nell idea di essere stati giusti, opportuni, bravi uomini insomma, invece le coscienze tremano, riprendono le loro tortuose vie nei meandri dell abisso, quelli della verit corrosiva, spaventevole, orrida Ivan non recrimina niente, basta la sua presenza a generare l orrore del loro operato, mentre anch egli si stupisce, perso nel paradosso della libert effettivamente si sta proprio male nella libert.Com la sua patria dopo tutto Dopo Pietro il Grande, dopo Caterina, dopo la rivoluzione, dopo Lenin, dopo Stalin Non resta che considerare che la Russia ha raggiunto il progresso a discapito della libert del suo popolo, rinnovandone e alimentandone la schiavit perseguendo l utopia di rinnegare lo sviluppo capitalistico ha mantenuto schiavi i suoi cittadini, cambiando solo il padrone lo Stato che perdendo di vista l obiettivo, ha sacrificato la libert individuale L analisi del protagonista lucida, una condanna sicura dell utopia comunista con l individuazione di precisi errori storici pi nella persona di Lenin che in quella di Stalin Il romanzo strutturato in modo tale da permettere, attraverso il susseguirsi degli incontri che porteranno lentamente Ivan a reintegrarsi nella societ , la conoscenza delle diverse prospettive che furono coinvolte nell annientamento dell uomo Si pu percepire la debolezza del delatore, la paura dell accusatore, la rettitudine della moglie che non pu accusare il marito di una colpa inesistente, la quotidianit macchiata di codardia di chi ha scampato ogni pericolo facendolo subire ad un suo prossimo, il ti dell ebreo, la fame dell Ucraina Ci sono pagine talmente vivide nel loro realismo da provocare inquietudine e malessere, la fame in particolare descritta cos pungente che si arriva a un vero e proprio processo di immedesimazione , tale da far percepire sensazioni al limite del reale Oltremodo sono pungenti le considerazioni politiche e storiche, portano ad un ennesima riflessione sulla piccolezza dell essere umano che dimentica la sua natura umana, doveroso allora non accettare l irrazionale perch , a dispetto di Hegel, non tutto ci che reale razionale Tutto ci che disumano assurdo e inutile Intanto Ivan, terminate le sue peregrinazioni, giace sconfitto in una landa desolata, eppure egli immutabile e immutato perch riuscito, nonostante tutto, a rimanere un uomo Che ne sar della Russia Dov il tempo dell anima russa libera e umana Quando mai verr quel giorno Per Ivan Grossman la risposta non pu che essere questa Chiss , forse non verr mai, mai spunter Ricordiamolo anche il manoscritto di Tutto scorre fu sequestrato insieme a quello di Vita e destino , per fortuna l autore ne scrisse un altra copia che fu poi pubblicata alla sua morte Comprensibile l amarezza della sua risposta.


  9. says:

    Grossman s last gasp An epitaph, which still roundly condemns the inhumanity and evil of the Soviet system, from Lenin on.Even here, there is one last faint glimmer of hope.As the title indicates, the novel flows, from the train trip at the beginning, through show trials, apartment houses, and long lost friends It s not bitter, and certainly not resigned Rather, I sense a quiet determination that this man must tell his story That is the duty of every survivor of great evil.


  10. says:

    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 him.Ivan looks for his sweetheart from the time before his arrest but finds out that she had married and moved away.Ivan finds a job which gives his life some focus and purpose, and he finds love with his landlady Even that is snafches away from him.Grossman 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 quota 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 works.In the end Ivan finds peace and acceptance.An excellent portrayal of the human cost of the Georgian monstrr.