Have you ever had the experience of knowing absolutely nothing about a topic, and then suddenly everywhere you look, you see it? That happened to me last week, and it was all about Vasilly Grossman’s Life and Fate — specifically, a BBC Radio 4 dramatization which is being broadcast this week. Life and Fate takes place during Germany’s World War II occupation of the Soviet Union. The book, critical of the Stalin regime, was seized by the KGB in 1960 before publication, published in the West in 1980, and finally in Russia in 1988. Sadly, Grossman died in 1964 and never saw his master work published.
Naturally, all this made me very curious, so on Sunday I hitched my trusty iPhone to my computer and downloaded the first one-hour episode, “Viktor and Lyuda”. I listened in two phases during Monday’s commute. It took me a while to get into the “dramatization” (i.e.; radio play) format which is of course quite different from an audio book. There are sound effects, for one thing: footsteps, doors opening and closing, and so on. This morning I got up early for the express purpose of downloading more episodes before work! And I listened to “Anna’s Letter,” 15 minutes of absolutely heartbreaking drama. I was hooked. How could I go to work and leave all these poor people in such dire straits? But of course I had to.
And now it’s lunchtime, and I guess I could be listening to more of this fine drama, but I decided to share my excitement with you instead. You should also know that the characters in Life and Fate are portrayed by some very fine actors, including Kenneth Branagh, David Tennant, and Greta Scacchi. Episodes will air September 18-25, and be available for download for 30 days.
So what are you waiting for? Here are a couple of links to help you get started:
- BBC Radio 4 Life and Fate website: features information about the programme, and short videos by Branagh and Tennant. And, of course, the episodes.
- Wikipedia Book Summary: includes historical context, character descriptions, and a plot summary.
Have you read Life and Fate? Are you listening to the dramatization? What do you think?