by Theodore Plievier ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 15, 1948
The comparison of this epic account of the German debacle at Stalingrad to All Quiet on the Western Front is inevitable. The extraordinary thing is that it could come so soon....Against a background of slow-grinding defeat and unemotionally portrayed horror, the figures of three men weave in and out, bright threads of hope against a sense of slow eating doubt ending in suicidal despair,- the two grave-diggers, Gnotke and Gimpf, and the colonel, Vilshofen. The story is really one of men, and what happened to them subjectively, but the strategical aspects of the story are not forgotten. The big canvas is shot through with short histories, vignettes, cutbacks to Berlin and little homes in the Rhineland. Headquarters staff officers, non-coms, privates, doctors...all move with the story a little while- then disappear, dead of horror, of wounds, dead by their own hands, dead of dysentery, of typhus, of starvation of below zero cold. And to each is granted the right to live in the monstrous bubble of Hitler's dream, and to see that bubble burst, and to know they have been serving a madman. The survivors poured like a frozen living stream across the dreary land. Colonel Vilshofen and Gnotke walked together. The Colonel asked himself the questions the world would ask and found the answer in Knotke whose heart was so warm no horror could freeze it, and in Gimpf, who, before he died of typhus, could tell just what horror it was that made him an automaton finding life only in Knotke's steady protection.... The book is said to have sold a million copies in the original German; in this fine English translation, by the Winstons, it should run to the same figure. Reader's appeal is limited only by the staunchness of the reader's mind. Here's what actually happened to the Germans, with insight into what might be possible as redemption. A tremendous book. Don't let it be sidetracked.
Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1948
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1948
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