This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the first publication in the Soviet Union of Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate, a nine-hundred-page novel of life under Stalin. This was a small posthumous triumph for the author. The kgb had confiscated the manuscript in 1961, and Grossman—who wrote to Khrushchev asking, “What is the point of me being physically free when the book I dedicated my life to is arrested?”—was told that it could not be published in the ussr for another two hundred years. Depressed and suffering from stomach cancer, he died in 1964.

The censors knew what they were doing. Like Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, Life and Fate depicts Communism and Fascism as ideological mirror-images, two...


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