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Paperback The Stalin Front: A Novel of World War II Book

ISBN: 1590171640

ISBN13: 9781590171646

The Stalin Front: A Novel of World War II

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1942, at the Eastern Front. Soldiers crouch in horrible holes in the ground, mingling with corpses. Tunneled beneath a radio mast, German soldiers await the order to blow themselves up. Russian tanks,... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

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The Banality of Evil

Hannah Arendt wrote in her book 'Eichmann in Jerusalem' that our modern conception of evil is /banality/; the ubiquitousness of violence, degradation, and disrespect for human life is what roots humanity in evil. It is Arendt's version of evil that arises in Ledig's 'Stalin Front': the mechanization of death is the most insidious, and disturbing, part of the story. There is much to be said for "The Stalin Front." Superficially, it is a war story between the Germans and the Russians ...more Hannah Arendt wrote in her book 'Eichmann in Jerusalem' that our modern conception of evil is /banality/; the ubiquitousness of violence, degradation, and disrespect for human life is what roots humanity in evil. It is Arendt's version of evil that arises in Ledig's 'Stalin Front': the mechanization of death is the most insidious, and disturbing, part of the story. There is much to be said for "The Stalin Front." Superficially, it is a war story between the Germans and the Russians (told, either notably or not, by a German) during the battle of Pedrova, a hill outside of Leningrad. Whether to be attributed to Hoffman's translation, or the ambiguity of Ledig's own writing, it is frequently difficult to discern about which side one is reading. With the exception of an occasional 'tovarische' or italicized German or Russian phrase, there is little allusion given to the particular 'sides' in the war. The mutual hatred between the Russians and the Germans is evident to any student of history. Regardless, there is no politicising the war (and the clash of ideologies and governments). Much like Junger's 'Storm of Steel,' the various political components underpinning the war are virtually ignored in lieu of the focus upon the day-to-day survival of those engaged in the war. There are some small bits of compassion between the two sides, and throughout the story it is evidenced how much the larger the battle is than each individual soldier and officer engaged in it. The overwhelming bureaucracy prevents units on both the Russian and German side from making proper decisions, while units remain at the mercy of their (oft far-removed) commanding officers. Inherently, there is an amount of violence to be expected of any book regarding war. Ledig's written violence is unequivocally one of the most severe and consuming that I have personally encountered in literature. Despite the incessant barrage of brutality, there are slivers of each character attempting to preserve whatever dignity he has left despite (or, perhaps, in spite of) the circumstances. Hoffman's translation is clearly painstakingly completed: much of the idiomatic phrases and similes are translated (in closest approximation) to their English counterparts. Some of the writing is jilted, which is either Ledig's writing, or Hoffman's translating. The difficulty, of course, is that there are no other translations of 'The Stalin Front' available at present time, and one is left with Hoffman's by default. Much of

An uncompromising view of war as a charnel house

The Stalin Front is a closeup view of two days of confused fighting in the swamps near Leningrad, at the end of which most of the characters, German and Russian, are dead, have gone mad, or humiliated themselves. The point of view moves impassively from one character's fate to the next without making heroes out of any of them. As far as the translation is concerned, Hofmann uses Anglicisms such as "ruddy", "playing silly buggers", or "Father Christmas" (since it was first published in Great Britain) that may be unfamiliar to US readers and that don't adequately convey the terse military tone of the original German. Additionally, on page 180 of this edition, Hofmann makes what I'm sure is a mistake when he translates "Misstrauisch, nach allen Seiten sichernd,lief er weiter" as "Suspicious, LEAKING in all directions, he ran on" instead of "LOOKING in all directions."

Cry woe, destruction, ruin, and decay

The worst is death, and death will have his day. Shakespeare, Richard II. Death had more than its share of days on the Eastern Front and it is those days during the battle of Leningrad in 1942 that provide the background for Gert Ledig's "The Stalin Front", first published in Germany in 1955. Gert Ledig was born in Germany in 1921 and enlisted in the German army in 1939, at age 18. He was wounded seriously during the Battle of Leningrad and was sent back to Germany to work as an engineer. While back in Germany he lived through some of the horrifying air raids unleashed on Germany by the Allies. His experiences in Leningrad found their way into The Stalin Front and his experiences during the air raids informed his other major work "Payback". It should probably be noted at the outset that the title "Stalin Front" is a bit misleading. The original title in German, "Die Stalinorgel" literally translates into English as the "Stalin Organ", a slang military term for the katyusha rockets that rained death and destruction upon German troops throughout the war. The title is important because the rockets themselves are present throughout the book and serve almost as a deathly Greek-chorus as the story proceeds. I don't know why the title was changed but can only guess that the publishers felt that readers would not know what the term Stalin organ meant. This is a minor matter I suppose but I think the decision unwarranted. Ledig's writing is direct, brutal, and often poetic despite the horrors he portrays. The book opens with the following: "The Lance-Corporal couldn't turn in his grave, because he didn't have one. Some three versts [a verst is about ¾ of a mile] from Podrova, forty versts south of Leningrad, he had been caught in a salvo of rockets, been thrown up in the air, and with severed hands and head dangling, been impaled on the skeletal branches of what once had been a tree." After eventually falling to the ground "tank-tracks had rolled out the Lance-corporal, a fighter plane loosed off its explosive cannon fire into the mass of shredded uniform, flesh and blood. After that, the Lance-Corporal was left in peace." The matter-of-fact tone accentuates the horror. The book consists of a number of parallel stories of German and Soviet soldiers engaged in a battle over a small sector of the front over a short period of time. Ledig does not judge any of the characters, he simply tells their stories. They each react to their surroundings in a different way and Ledig accepts that as a simple fact of battleground life. The coward trying to desert or avoid the battle for the relative comfort of battalion command, the preening military bureaucrat trying to hold a court-martial of the wrong soldier, the Soviet or German soldier are viewed simply as participants in an event over which they have no control. Value-judgments are left to the reader, to the extent that anyone who hasn't lived through these particular depths of hell can pass judgme
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