Today in Yiddishkayt… December 12
Birthday of Vasily Grossman, Author
Vasily Semyonovich Grossman was born on December 12, 1905 in Barditshev (today Berdychiv, Ukraine) the once-major Jewish city made famous in Yiddish literature in the work of Mendele Moykher-Sforim and Sholem Aleichem. His first major story, “In the Town of Berdichev” brought him to the attention of Maxim Gorki and Isaak Babel who said of it that “Our Yid capital has been seen through new eyes.” His magnum opus, Life and Fate, written about the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union and life (and especially death) on the Eastern Front was banned and confiscated. In Life and Fate he wrote:
“Human groupings have one main purpose: to assert everyone’s right to be different, to be special, to think, feel and live in his or her own way. People join together in order to win or defend this right….The only true and lasting meaning of the struggle for life lies in the individual, in his modest peculiarities and in his right to these peculiarities.”
He died at the age of 58 in Moscow. Listen to a clip of the BBC’s September radio dramatization of Life and Fate.