Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Soviet Citizens in World War II

Soviet partisans on the road in Belarus,
1944 counter-offensive
via Wikimedia Commons

Without doubt, World War II is one of the big recurring themes of modern literature and since I started book blogging, I’ve already reviewed several novels set against its backdrop. However, if you read my summaries of The Christmas Carp by Vicki Baum, The Blood of Others by Simone de Beauvoir, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, The Wedding in Auschwitz by Erich Hackl, The Night in Lisbon by Erich Maria Remarque, The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman by Andrzej Szczypiorski, and The Angry Hills by Leon Uris or A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute and even The Rice Mother by Rani Manicka, you’ll find that they all show events from a more or less western and/or Jewish perspective. 

But as from 22 June 1941 the Soviet Union too was at war with Nazi Germany – despite the deal that Stalin had made with Hitler in 1939. Fierce battles raged on her territory and apart from millions of soldiers also civilians, among them a considerable number of Russian Jews, lost their lives and suffered under German atrocities as well as partisan activities. And yet, we know little about how Soviet people experienced World War II although there are war novels written from this perspective, most of them less famous than their western counterparts, though. Starting on Friday I’m going to present three of them here on Edith’s Miscellany

The first will be If Not Now, When? by Primo Levi bringing attention to partisan life under German occupation with a Russian Jew who is also a dispersed Red Army man as protagonist. Then follows a little known though Stalin Prize-winning classic of Russian literature, The Train by Vera Panova, that will take us to the rear of the Red Army to a very mixed group of Soviet patriots travelling on a hospital train to take care of the wounded. And after a dystopian digression to Central Asia with an Austrian novel from the fin de siècle, we’ll go through the siege of Leningrad with the music of Dmitri Shostakovich and The Conductor by Sarah Quigley.

I hope that you’ll enjoy this change of perspective!


  1. Looking forward to your reviews of all of these! I have read The Blood of Others and many other books by de Beauvoir. She is someone I admire greatly.

    1. I reckon that The Blood of Others by Simone de Beauvoir is the most widely read of the WWI novels that I reviewed, probably closely followed by Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl that is non-fiction, of course.

      I hope that you won't be disappointed by the review coming up from 29 July through 19 August. Thanks for showing your interest!

  2. You always find the most interesting books. I have read a lot about WWII and that includes books about the Soviet union before or after.

    The last really interesting book about the Soviet Union was "Empires Apart. A History of American and Russian Imperialism" by Brian Landers. I think you would like that, as well.

    Marianne from
    Let's Read

    1. Thanks for the suggestion, Marianne! It sound like an interesting read, indeed.


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