May 01, 2020

In the Trenches of Stalingrad



In the Trenches of Stalingrad

On the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII, we offer two excerpts from a new translation of Viktor Nekrasov’s In the Trenches of Stalingrad, one of Russia’s first honest books about the war. The novel (which won the USSR State Prize for Literature in 1947) drew on Nekrasov’s experience as a platoon leader, regimental engineer, and assistant sapper brigade commander, and he unflinchingly covers not only the victory, but also the horrible violence of the war, as well as some of the Red Army’s worst failings, including losses, retreat, and cowardice. Born in 1911, Nekrasov was a journalist, writer, and, eventually, in the 1960s and 1970s a dissident and emigre. The novel, translated by award-winning translator Brendan Kiernan, will be released this fall by Russian Life Books.

At the library, Igor delightedly pages through back issues of Apollo from 1911. I enjoy some Peruvian novellas in International Literature. The library’s wicker chairs are comfy. The reading room is quiet and cozy. There are portraits of Turgenev, Tyutchev, and someone with a mustache and a tie pin. A large wall clock chimes melodically every quarter hour. Two teenage boys choke back laughter over Dore’s illustrations of Munchausen. I, too, at one time, had that book with a red cover and gold binding, with the very same illustrations. I could look through it 20 times a day. I especially liked the one where the Baron was pulling himself out of a swamp by his own hair. And another, where a gate cut a horse in two as it calmly drank from a fountain, water cascading out its back.

We sit there until the librarian lets us know that the library closes at six. They’re down to one shift, and work from twelve to six.


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Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

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