An Armenian Sketchbook by Vasily Grossman
Russian Non fiction
Translator – Robert and Elizabeth Chandler
Original title – Dobro Vam
Source – Review Copy
Pleased to get this from Maclehose , as I’ve dabbled with life and fate but never got far into it and sat finished the book .So this was the first full book I have read by him .Vasily was born to a Jewish family in Ukraine ,he reported during world war two this formed many of the views that he put in his great Novel Life and fate , he was a respect journalist as well as a novelist .He sadly died four years after the journey he took in this book .
In October 1960 Grossman had submitted the manuscript of Life and fate to the editors of a soviet Literary Journal ,It was the height of the Khuschev’s “thaw” and Grossman seems genuinely to have believed that lif and fate could be published in the Soviet Union ,even though a central theme of the novel is that Nazism and Stalinism are mirror images of each other .
Just before he went to Armenian from the intro to the book
An Armenian notebook follows a Journey Vasily Grossman took during 1960 ,he was out of favour in a way his famous now book Life and Fate had been stopped by the soviets .So he had decided to take a chance and work on an epic Armenian novel that required a better translation .So he head to Armenian ,one of the thrills in getting this is my own Knowledge of the region is very scant .So Grossmans simple clear prose brought to life this remote stone cover land and it quite unique people ,as we follow his travels .So we get to see each person he meets in little sketches about them and their life gently build a wonderful picture of the folks he meets .Armenian is a place that is caught between Asia ,Europe ,Russia and the persian world ,this leads to a very interesting mix of people .Vasily him self wasn’t in the best of health when he wrote this but still managed to inject a good deal of humour to his words .He is also fair in his observations,the fact is he has that great Journalistic skill of good journalistic writing in not being biased the best writing of place leaves it to the reader to make their minds up and this he does well here ,it would have been easy for Grossman to have made this book seemed very anti soviet to make this place seem as thou it was an out laying region with out anything good from Communism but it didn’t. He also made me want to read the book he was translating ,I never read a book from Armenian so if any one knows if it is available in English let me know .
A second day passed ,and a third .The new arrival ceased to think of himself as an exotic parrot in the mountain village .Now the people he met were beginning to greet him .And he was greeting them back .
He already knew many people : the young women from the post office ,the man at the village shop ; the night watchman – a melancholy man with a rifle ,two shepherds ,the old man who looked after the thousand-year old walls of the Kecharis monastery
Grossman is drawn into a remote villages life
So what did I discover ,well a writer of Non fiction I love Grossman is such a beautiful and clear prose writer it is hard not to fall in love with his words and use of words .,He manages to catch the place as a whole the people ,nature ,building and even the feel in the air (if you know what I mean I always feel every place you go to have a spirit about it something in the air that you can’t quite put your finger on ,this he manages to capture ).The sadness of Armenian he talks about the link the Armenian feels of the horrific event in 1916 and the Jewish massacre during world war two . My favourite parts where around his village to a remote Mountain Village ,as all follows of this blog will know I have a great love of villages as they say so much more about people than big cities do .
Have you read this book ?