Kenneth Branagh to star in Life and Fate for Radio 4

Kenneth Branagh The eight-hour adaptation will be broadcast over a week in September

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Kenneth Branagh is to star in an eight-hour adaptation of Vasily Grossman's wartime epic Life And Fate for BBC Radio 4.

John Sessions and Olivier-award winner Sara Kestelman will also star in the adaptation set at the Battle of Stalingrad, during World War II.

The 1959 novel charts the fate of the Russian city.

Radio 4 will devote all of its drama strands to the adaptation over a week from 18 September.

Apart from long-running soap The Archers, every regular drama slot on the station like the Afternoon Play and Woman's Hour drama will broadcast a part of the dramatisation.

Radio 4 will also tell the story of the author in a documentary on his work as well as readings from his front-line journalism as one of Russia's most distinguished war correspondents.

"I'm thrilled that Radio 4's dramatisation of Life And Fate will bring this remarkable but little known work to a wider audience," said Gwyneth Williams, controller of Radio 4.

"The novel's underlying message - the ability of the human spirit to endure in the face of authoritarian rule and war - is as relevant today as it was 70 years ago."

Life and Fate has been hailed as one of the most important Russian novels of the 20th century.

Its comparison of Stalinism with Nazism was considered by Soviet authorities to be so dangerous that the manuscript was seized by the KGB.

Although Grossman was told his book would not be published for at least 200 years, the work was smuggled out of the Soviet Union on microfilm and eventually published in the West.

The Radio 4 drama will be preceded by a series of free public events to discuss the novel including a special recording of Start The Week at St Peter's College, Oxford University, on 9 September.

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