Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Since its foundation a decade and a half ago, the web has been regarded (at least by ad agencies) as a visual medium. Writing hasn't just taken a backseat, it's been relegated way back to the trunk.

It's funny that it's like that. Because many of the most popular sites are word heavy. Google. Facebook. Craig's List. Ebay.

In any event, there are those of us who believe in the power of good ideas and good writing. Often, the best writing has both immediacy and detail that transports you to a setting or a moment. It makes the abstract visceral and real.

Today I came upon some war writing by the great Russian writer Vasily Grossman. Many people have mentioned Grossman's novels in the same breath as Tolstoy. So he's no slouch. "Life and Fate," which evokes Tolstoy's "War and Peace" was widely heralded when it was finally released in the West. His much slimmer volume "Everything Flows" received even greater acclaim.

Here's a picture Grossman paints from 1941. (Junkers were German war planes):

"Three Junkers appeared. Bombs exploded. Screams. Red flames with white and black smoke. We pass the same village again in the evening. The people are wide-eyed, worn out. Women are carrying belongings. Chimneys have grown very tall, they are standing tall amid the ruins. And flowers--cornflowers and peonies--are flaunting themselves so peacefully."

Here's another, a report from the destruction of the village of Gomel:

"Howling bombs, fire, women...The strong smell of perfume--from a pharmacy hit in the bombardment--blocked out the stench of burning, just for a moment. The picture of burning Gomel in the eyes of a wounded cow."

1 comment:

Tim said...

Thanks. I'm now an official Grossman believer. It only took him 3 or 4 lines to say what it took Picasso 25' to say in Guernica.