Monday, June 26, 2006

Just read: "The Stalin Front" by Gert Ledig

Just Read: The Stalin Front, by Gert Ledig. 2004 translation of 1955 German novel, 1590171640

Not bad; short at 198 pages. Ledig was a German veteran of the Russian front outside Leningrad.

The novel is set around a Russian attack on a German hilltop position. Story is told by both German and Russian voices. Ledig uses rank rather than names for most characters. I took this as a statement by the author: Why bother learning names when a lifetime at the front can be measured in days or hours?

Stalin Front is a grim book with most of the characters dead at the end, some through stupidity and chance, and one, the Sergeant, through bureaucratic need. Chosen as a scapegoat for the mass panic at the beginning of the Russian attack the Sergeant is chosen by Headquarters to be executed for desertion. Headquarters announces his execution, removes him from the rolls and sends notice to his family. A Captain is left to shoot him - after the decision and public notice - knowing that no trial was given and that any of hundreds of other soldiers could have been charged for the same thing.

For a short novel the several individual characters stand out as real people. Terror, anger, resentment, hope, and other emotions come through clearly. I reckon the translator did a real good job.

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