The Road by Vasily Grossman

Best known for his novel Life and Fate, Vasily Grossman also wrote short stories and worked as a war correspondent in the Second World War.  A Ukrainian Jew with parents who worked as urban professionals, Grossman did not represent the common stereotype of the Eastern European Jew living in a “Litvak shtetl.”  The Road, a collection of short stories, journalism, and letters published by New York Review Books, provides a useful jumping off point for anyone interested in the life and work of Vasily Grossman.  It includes his earliest stories and his last short story he wrote.  “The Hell of … Continue reading The Road by Vasily Grossman

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A Confession by Leo Tolstoy

Near the end of his life, Count Leo Tolstoy wrote two lengthy essays on the topic of religion.  Hesperus Press includes these two essays, “A Confession” (1879 – 1882) and “What is Religion, and What Does its Essence Consist of?” (1902).  The edition includes a foreword by novelist and Orange Prize winner Helen Dunmore with an introduction by famed Tolstoy translator Tony Briggs. Tolstoy would revisit the religious theme in “Father Sergius” (written in 1890, published in 1898), an excruciatingly introspective tale of sensual temptation, religious duty, and personal mutilation.  With “A Confession” and “What is Religion?”, Tolstoy works within … Continue reading A Confession by Leo Tolstoy

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Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne Robinson is not a prolific author, but like fellow slow writers Thomas Pynchon and Alexander Theroux, each of her novels is a finely hewn literary masterpiece.  Gilead reveals literature at its finest.  Taking the form of letters written to his young son, Reverend John Ames, an old man approaching the twilight of his years, writes about God, history, fathers and sons, and life.  According to the summary on the dust jacket, the year is 1956.  Past and present commingle as Ames remembers his early life, including his father the pacifist and his grandfather, the fiery visionary abolitionist.  Father and … Continue reading Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

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