By Vasily Grossman, Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler, Yury Bit-Yunan
An NYRB Classics Original
Few writers needed to confront as a number of the final century’s mass tragedies as Vasily Grossman, who wrote with terrifying readability in regards to the Shoah, the conflict of Stalingrad, and the phobia Famine within the Ukraine. An Armenian Sketchbook, besides the fact that, indicates us a really diverse Grossman, striking for his tenderness, heat, and experience of fun.
After the Soviet govt confiscated—or, as Grossman regularly placed it, “arrested”—Life and Fate, he took at the activity of revising a literal Russian translation of a protracted Armenian novel. the unconventional used to be of little curiosity to him, yet he wanted cash and used to be obviously comfortable of an excuse to go back and forth to Armenia. An Armenian Sketchbook is his account of the 2 months he spent there.
This is through a long way the main own and intimate of Grossman’s works, endowed with an air of absolute spontaneity, as if he's easily chatting to the reader approximately his impressions of Armenia—its mountains, its historical church buildings, its people—while additionally reading his personal techniques and moods. a superbly human account of trip to a far off position, An Armenian Sketchbook additionally has the bright allure of a self-portrait
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Additional info for An Armenian sketchbook
His head is large and gray, and white curls spill out from under his hat. As for his face, it would make Rembrandt lay down his brush and say, “There’s nothing left for me to do. ” And it’s true—you could capture his face best with a humble camera. Andreas has a leonine forehead, heavy overhanging brows, deep lines around his mouth, a large nose, the jowls of Field Marshal Hindenburg, and bulging yellowy-gray eyes that are at once watery and inflamed. These eyes contain kindness and exhaustion, indomitable rage and terrible anguish, deep thought and crazed fury.
Here, at least, it cannot be the reflection of any recent events. The mirror that shows us the face of contemporary Armenia has been polished in the depth of time. The same can be said of Russian faces and—still more—of Jewish faces. There is certainly nothing uniform about Russian faces. There are Russians with gray or light-blue eyes, with snub noses and flaxen hair; there are Russians with hooked noses, so-called “Gypsies,” with southern, black eyes and pitch-black curls; and there are Russians with high cheekbones, flattened noses, and narrow Mongol eyes.
I board a bus. For some reason I feel awkward about admitting I don’t know the price of a ticket. I give the conductor a ruble. He gestures at me: Haven’t I got any change? I shake my head, even though I have several small coins in my pocket. The price turns out to be the same as in Moscow. Your first minutes on the streets of an unfamiliar city are always special; what happens in later months or years can never supplant them. These minutes are filled with the visual equivalent of nuclear energy, a kind of nuclear power of attention.
An Armenian sketchbook by Vasily Grossman, Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler, Yury Bit-Yunan