Read ePUB Generations of Winter By Vasily Aksyonov – Schematicwiringdiagram.co

Compared by critics across the country to War and Peace for its memorable characters and sweep, and to Dr Zhivago for its portrayal of Stalin s Russia, Generations of Winter is the romantic saga of the Gradov family fromto


10 thoughts on “Generations of Winter

  1. Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont says:

    Here s a literary recipe Take a big book, an epic Cover a slice of national history, several decades for preference Introduce a family over three generations Combine real historical figures with fictitious characters Season the whole mixture with fleeting moments of happiness and liberal amounts of tragedy What do you have You know, surely you know Yes, of course you have War and Peace Actually on this particular occasion you don t What you have Vassily Aksynov s Generations of Winte Here s a literary recipe Take a big book, an epic Cover a slice of national history, several decades for preference Introduce a family over three generations Combine real historical figures with fictitious characters Season the whole mixture with fleeting moments of happiness and liberal amounts of tragedy What do you have You know, surely you know Yes, of course you have War and Peace Actually on this particular occasion you don t What you have Vassily Aksynov s Generations of Winter, a book which the Washington Post described as the great Russian novel, the 20th century equivalent of War and Peace All I can say is that the Washington Post needs to get outit needs to wander down the highways and byways of Russian literature There are novels far greater than Generations of Winter One immediately comes to mind Vasily Grossman s Life and Fate, the only modern novel, so far as I am concerned, that really does stand up to War and Peace Of course I can t blame Aksynov for the hyperbole of the Washington Post Ah, but just a minute That s not quite true I can blame him inasmuch as he offers a challenge to Tolstoy on his own ground The knight enters the lists in a wholly self conscious way, too big for his horse and too big for his armour Tolstoy thunders down, upsetting the mount and unseating the rider Oh, if only he had beenmodest if only he had challenged Pasternak first For Generations of Winter might weigh in better on a first charge with Doctor Zhivago It s certainly a book conceived on a monumental scale, one which tackles Russian history head on, a slice of the twentieth century, from the tranquil mid 1920s, a period of relative liberalisation, through the dark 1930s, the time of Stalin s Great Purge, on to the Second World War It follows the fortunes of the Gradov family, in happiness and in sorrow and when it comes to sorrow no other nation quite matches Russia It follows the fate of Boris Gradov, a leading Soviet doctor, and his children Nikita, a soldier, Nina, a poet, and Kirill, an idealist It follows, in turn, the fate of their children The author should know whereof he speaks Both his parents were arrested at the height of Stalin s terror when he was not quite five years old His mother was Eugenia Ginzburg, herself a writer, who spent years in the concentration camps of Kolyma and in Siberian exile, recording her experiences in Journey into the Whirlwind and Within the Whirlwind Aksynov, who did not see her again until he was sixteen, was sent to a state orphanage, another kind of gulag, a death sentence for so many children, from which he was rescued by his uncle Alas, if only he had been a little less contrived in his approach to the subject matter we might be dealing with a superb novel, perhaps even a great one, rather than one which is simply good Obviously I can only talk about the English translation but the style, the narrative technique, seems to me to be course and clumsy at points The various intermissions , over, are horribly contrived, self conscious and embarrassing literary artefacts Generations of Winter is also a game of two halves Actually as I subsequently discovered it really is a game of three parts except the third part is missing In large measure this explains why the novel is so uneven The first part leading up to the Second World War is assured and focused The second part lacks coherence In the end, without the sequel, we are simply left hanging, unsure of the fate of the various characters I do not think that Generations of Winter is a great book, but it is an honest one It s an uncompromising picture of what life was like in Stalin s nightmarish utopia It s a picture of betrayal, of lives all but destroyed by arbitrary whims and political paranoia it s a picture of unwholesome people like Stalin and the reptilian Beria, chief of the NKVD, the thuggish and criminal state security apparatus It s a picture, above all, of corruption Here the author is direct rather than subtle At one point Boris Gradov treats Stalin for extreme constipation The dictator, you see, is nothing but a sack of shit I read this book, a surprise gift, over the Christmas holiday and found myself beguiled, my various criticisms notwithstanding This is living history, history mediated through the eyes of real people, who when they are not real are fictions I followed the Gradovs and their various fates, never wholly losing interest, though from time to time losing sight of some members of the family I was irritated, though, by the artificiality which breaks through from time to time There are too many contrived encounters, particularly those involving Townsend Reston, an American journalist, and leading members of the Gradov family His meeting with Nina Gradov in the Moscow metro during a German bombing raid stretches credulity to the point of absurdity Then there is the relationship between Veronika, Nikita Gradov s wife, and Colonel Kevin Taliaferro, an American military attach , which takes credulity beyond absurdity Here the book descends almost into the comic nonsense of soap opera But, as I say, it s an honest narrative of dishonest times I remember an observation from Doctor Zhivago, where a character says that the personal life was dead in Russia, that it had been killed by history There must have been many families like the Gradovs, real people, people who maintained decent standards in the midst of indecency, who did their best to retain something of the personal life who ensured, even in the most trying of circumstances, that they would not be drowned by the tides of time For these generations Generations of Winter stands as a worthy testimony


  2. John John says:

    This is sort of a companion book to Solzhenitsyn s Gulag Archipelago That s quite a comparison to make, especially for a book that has been called a modern War and Peace I don t intend for the comparison to put the book into the same league as Gulag, as they are entirely different sorts of books The comparison is meant to draw attention to Solzhenitsyn s focus on the Gulag itself that is the Soviet prison camps, their history, and their victims There were glimpses of life outside of t This is sort of a companion book to Solzhenitsyn s Gulag Archipelago That s quite a comparison to make, especially for a book that has been called a modern War and Peace I don t intend for the comparison to put the book into the same league as Gulag, as they are entirely different sorts of books The comparison is meant to draw attention to Solzhenitsyn s focus on the Gulag itself that is the Soviet prison camps, their history, and their victims There were glimpses of life outside of the camps, but only in their relation to the Gulag system Generations of Winter deals primarily with life on the outside hence a good compliment to understanding life in Soviet Russia The two together Gulag and Generations of Winter give a great picture for the average Russian during a time of great fright and upheaval.The novel begins a little slowly, but gains steam quickly and by midway through the book it is a fast paced ride The book begins in the fall of 1925 and chronicles the generations of the Gradov family through the end of World War II There are many surprises along the way, and as one would expect, there are many casualties along the way as the family is forced to weather Stalin s purges and World War II like all of Russia.The book has some eccentricities such as short sketches of reincarnated Russians living the lives of animals The best one is Lenin reincarnated as a rapacious, lusty squirrel Another favorite scene is of a constipated Stalin.Many have criticized the book for falling short of the War and Peace comparison so many have hoisted upon it But this truly is a work of genius That is not to say it is on par with Tolstoy or Solzhenitsyn, but boy, this is a good book There s nothing wrong with falling short of either of those writers, as they are two of the very best This is an outstanding work


  3. Anne Sanow Anne Sanow says:

    Comparisons to War and Peace are apt this family saga doesn t disappoint Aksyonov manages to capture historical sweep while still creating truly memorable characters Deserves a much wider readership, I think.


  4. Brad Brad says:

    It is a huge book, and I believe you have to have some desire to learn about what life was like in Russia during this time period But if you are one of those people it is a very compelling story about the generational gap between the older generation that predated Communism and the younger generation that knew nothing but communism


  5. Sven Sven says:

    Described by the critics as the 20th Century equivalent of War and Peace and with the emotional grandeur of a new Dr Zhivago , I would say it rests somewhere between Tolstoy and Pasternak If you enjoyed either of the aforementioned books, you will enjoy this one as well if you did not, you will not enjoy this book I gave it 5 stars I enjoyed all of it even the reincarnated animals and talking plants My only two complaints are that it did not possess the power of the end of War and Pe Described by the critics as the 20th Century equivalent of War and Peace and with the emotional grandeur of a new Dr Zhivago , I would say it rests somewhere between Tolstoy and Pasternak If you enjoyed either of the aforementioned books, you will enjoy this one as well if you did not, you will not enjoy this book I gave it 5 stars I enjoyed all of it even the reincarnated animals and talking plants My only two complaints are that it did not possess the power of the end of War and Peace there s to be a sequel, or is one, but only in Russian , and while I sympathize with the Gradov family s plight, it always irritates me that in this time of literature, the horror of the totalitarian state is gone into in great detail, but there is never any sort of statement that these bourgeois types are recieving some sort of political historic comeuppance for their centuries long role under the Czars


  6. Michael Michael says:

    A sweeping Russian novel that takes a look at the Gradov family from the Revolution through WWII One does not even need an extensive knowledge of Russian history to appreciate the story and learn about the complex characteristics of war and revolution.


  7. Jill Cordry Jill Cordry says:

    When I lived in Moscow the first time, in the mid 1990s, I lived on Syerebyani Bor, Silver Grove in English It was an area very much like the house where most of this lovely novel take place, endearing the book to me.


  8. Dan Dan says:

    Technically, Generations of Winter is the first two books in a trilogy, Generations of Winter and War and Jail which were followed by a third book, Winter s Hero, published as a separate standalone volume in English The arc of these first two volumes is the fall of the Gradov family, victims as most all of Russia was of Stalinism The first volume begins shortly after Stalin consolidated his power and covers the initial purges, the second covers the World War II The Great Patrioti Technically, Generations of Winter is the first two books in a trilogy, Generations of Winter and War and Jail which were followed by a third book, Winter s Hero, published as a separate standalone volume in English The arc of these first two volumes is the fall of the Gradov family, victims as most all of Russia was of Stalinism The first volume begins shortly after Stalin consolidated his power and covers the initial purges, the second covers the World War II The Great Patriotic War As works of historical fiction, these books give you a very real sense of what it might have felt like to have the grip of totalitarian repression take hold of your nation and the kind of fear and degradation that comes with it Of the two volumes, I personally found much less value in the second, as much of it covers the war itself and the combination of the valor of combat with its horrors has already been fairly well documented in my reading life, it all starts to blend together a bit In general, there is no shortage of horror here, which is entirely the point The purges, collectivization, the NEP, the NKVD, dekulakization, the gulag, it was all real and eventually it was documented, but to get a chance to see it through the eyes of complex and deeply human characters brings it to life in an additional dimension.While I did greatly appreciate this volume and am happy to say it s currently available for purchase onalong with Winter s Hero, it is a shame that these two books remain the only works of Aksyonov s that are easily obtainable in English translation, because they aren t very representative of his works While it has been almost two decades since I binged all of the Aksyonov that I could get my hands on, the thing I distinctly remember finding so compelling about him was that he was writing works of fantastic magical realism, filled with rebellion and dark humor and formal experimentation but distinctly of his background as a Soviet dissident Generations of Winter is cut from a very different cloth from a book like The Burn or The New Sweet Style, it is very much grounded historical fiction, deliberately written to expose the horrors of Stalinism which Aksyonov knew quite intimately, as the son of Eugenia Ginzberg , much closer to the tradition of Tolstoy and Pasternak s Doctor Zhivago than with the otherwild and woolly samizdat epics he was also known for


  9. Lawrence Lawrence says:

    I had read Generations of Winter in the 90 s close to when it came out Many scenes from this book remained with me Now I ve read it the second time and enjoyed it again I think its weakness is the use of the saga format , and its strength is the environment of the story But I also think it is interesting to think about it in terms of Russian literature generally although I admit I am a little tentative on this front and fear I am being over creative Generations of Winter is a saga abo I had read Generations of Winter in the 90 s close to when it came out Many scenes from this book remained with me Now I ve read it the second time and enjoyed it again I think its weakness is the use of the saga format , and its strength is the environment of the story But I also think it is interesting to think about it in terms of Russian literature generally although I admit I am a little tentative on this front and fear I am being over creative Generations of Winter is a saga about a Moscow family in the 20 s during the NEP period and in the Stalinist 30 s and in World War II The cast of characters includes people associated with the family by friendship and marriage I usually find family sagas difficult The reason is that so much time must be covered and so much narrative expended and parceled out among individuals Although the story can be exciting in a cinematic way, the characters lose some depth I think actually that this is true in a way in GoW What remains exciting, however, is the ever fascinating ambience of the developing Soviet Union This provides a new way of regarding character That is, persons behave in ways that the environment determines in order to survive and no matter what their inner scruples or fears may be This is where odd, seemingly two dimensional behavior may arise from stoicism and fear, the exaltation of some family members along with the arrests of others, the intense loyalty to Russia, and the ambivalent attitude toward Josef Stalin, known to be a thug, but respected as someone beyond the ordinary human categories When the USSR still existed, this ambivalent attitude in literature towards leadership and communism could be explained as part of authorial survival technique This is enough to keep one going in this book Plus Mr A is a great storyteller with great momentum.As to Russian literature, I wonder why there are the echoes of Tolstoy s War and Peace in this book For example, one character is compared to Natasha Rostov at her first dance another to the wounded Count Andrei Another character remarks on the Hitler Russian campaign as paralleling the Napoleonic campaign that sets the scene for much of Tolstoy s book There is some tactical discussion and thinking, especially by GoW s Nikita Gradov, and enough war description to echo further Tolstoy s lengthy battlefield narratives One can even see War and Peace as a family saga about the Rostovs and those who come into contact with them.These echoes of earlier literature are interesting to me For me, a major gift of Russia to the West are its books and that, indeed, only its books survive as its heritage or locatable cultural identity from the past For example, the characters in GoW live in such a fast changing world and their morals have to accomodate to it And, probably, Russians had to do this throughout their history Perhaps this is the irony of the Gradov family home in the forest It bridges major upheavals and remains cultured, even hermetically sealed, in an old fashioned way It is a place that we would want to live in a Russia imagined out of its literature The irony is that it seems that way, but is not one only needs to take the streetcar into town to realize that In this respect, the contrast between society in War and Peace and in GoW is very great In the first book, seemingly autonomous, certainly lively individuals with lives crowded by circumstance act out history In the other, autonomy is a sham or enjoyed only in retreat, and life circumstances include the enmity and or indifference and or whims of, not a government, but a system of control driven to the edges of ideological sanity and victimizing both its heroes and its enemies In this connection, the literature of the past is totally divorced from the present day and meaningless


  10. Lauren Lauren says:

    I was assigned to read this book for my Russian history class, and holy cow, it was good It was one of those books where I felt like I should have buckled my seatbelt because it was a fast paced, bumpy ride What do I mean by fast paced and bumpy Well, a lot of things happen over the course of 600 pages War happens, the political landscape changes, events happen to each member of the family strikingly and horrifyingly I must say that I was personally terrified by a lot of scenes in the book, I was assigned to read this book for my Russian history class, and holy cow, it was good It was one of those books where I felt like I should have buckled my seatbelt because it was a fast paced, bumpy ride What do I mean by fast paced and bumpy Well, a lot of things happen over the course of 600 pages War happens, the political landscape changes, events happen to each member of the family strikingly and horrifyingly I must say that I was personally terrified by a lot of scenes in the book, insomuch that I was utterly disturbed by the descriptions of life in Russia during the Purges of the government and such.Where to begin The amount of sex and violence in the book is shocking at first, but somewhat laughable on occasion The description of Cecilia s breasts made me laugh most of the time because the author liked pointing out how HUGE they were view spoiler Once Nikita and Kirill are both arrested for so called crimes against the state, the torture endured by both of them is quite upsetting to think about We mostly get to see Nikita s torture which is especially painful, the poor man Hint he won t be having anychildren, that s for sure hide spoiler Additionally, the war and how it progresses is sad unsurprisingly especially because of how it affects the lives of the Gradov family view spoiler Nikita is forced back into the army as a leader, while his son Boris joins the fight, as well as Mitya, who unfortunately winds up behind a bullet, after being betrayed by an individual he had considered his friend Nikita eventually winds up killed as well, by a Faust fired at him by the enemy hide spoiler This aspect of the story was saddening It s hard to think about war, and when presented with the reality of it through a book as good as this, it really makes you think view spoiler I don t think I really saw it resolved in the book so correct me if I m wrong, but I really wish we had a reunion between Celia and Kirill I feel as though that would have been a beautiful ending If my beloved Nikita couldn t have his life, then at least Kirill could hide spoiler