|About the Book|
Anyone who has read the histories and memoirs of the fighting on the Eastern Front, especially Stalingrad, will not find anything new in Plieviers book yet it still manages to capture that descent into Hell that was the common experience for the soldiers of this, the greatest battle of the Second World War. The book was written in 1948 and that immediately makes it stand out as a forerunner of gritty, down-to-earth literary depictions of the horrors of war. There were many occasions when I had to pinch myself to remind myself that this was a work of fiction and not a historical memoir. Pleivier was able to carry out first-hand research and visit the battlefield whilst it still held its horrors frozen in its jaws. So often I could visualise the brutality and discomfort, the cold and hunger, the loss of hope and appalling loss of life. There are images here that would be worthy of a modern-day Dante.The book does have its flaws (if that is the correct term to use). There are times when it does read like the script to a propaganda movie where the hero argues about the futility and immorality of it all against hardened Nazis. The fanatical resistance offered by the Germans is depicted as the consequence of indecision and omission on the part of the military leadership in order to further stress the betrayal of the ordinary soldier by a corrupt elite. I am overemphasising the flaws. Overall this is a powerful read made more dramatic by the howling blizzard blowing outside and the bone-chilling cold assaulting me in this, the coldest March weve had in 50 years.