Between 18th and 25th September BBC Radio Four broadcast an adaptation in thirteen episodes of the novel Life And Fate by the Ukrainian Jewish author Vasily Grossman, a work which has been described as a modern-day War And Peace. The adaptation stars, among others, Kenneth Branagh, Greta Scacchi, Janet Suzman and David Tennant
When Life And Fate was completed in 1960, the KGB considered it so dangerous that they confiscated not just all known copies of the manuscript but also the carbon papers Grossman had used to make duplicates, his notebooks and even the typewriter ribbon - just in case. The Politburo's chief of ideology decreed that the book could not safely be published for three hundred years.
Despite the KGB's thoroughness, a few copies of the manuscript escaped their attention. One of these was put on microfilm and smuggled out of the country. It was published in the West in 1980. Sadly, Grossman did not live to see this.
Set against the backdrop of the struggle for
In the face of all this, some characters struggle heroically while others compromise miserably. One party worker, terrified because his four year old child has drawn a pair of ear-rings on a newspaper photograph of Stalin, denounces someone else in his determination to prove himself a good communist.
One of the most affecting episodes in this adaptation is a mere fourteen minutes long. It consists simply of a letter from the mother of one of the characters, written from a ghetto in the
The dramas all stand alone but together they create a kaleidoscopic portrait of life in Stalin's workers' state and one of the most striking things that emerges is the similarity between communist and fascist ideology.
For the next twenty days you can download all the episodes as podcasts, listen to them at your leisure and be grateful you were born into a free society.