Wednesday 24 Sep 2014
Kenneth Branagh is to star in BBC Radio 4's ambitious eight-hour dramatisation of Life And Fate.
Vasily Grossman's epic masterpiece, set during the Battle of Stalingrad, takes over every drama strand* on Radio 4 from 18-25 September.
This powerful work, completed in 1960, charts the fate of both a nation and a family in the turmoil of war and is increasingly 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 placed under arrest by the KGB. Grossman was informed his book would not be published for at least 200 years.
In support of this major dramatisation, Radio 4 will tell the remarkable story of the author in a documentary on his work – The Life And Fate Of Vasily Grossman – and three readings from his front-line journalism. It will also be reflected in a special edition of Start The Week.
Having been a household name as one of Russia's most distinguished war correspondents, Grossman died aged 58 – the arrest of his book hastening the end of his life. He would never know the fate of his life's most important work – smuggled out of the Soviet Union on microfilm, to freedom and eventual publication in the West.
Gwyneth Williams, Controller, BBC Radio 4, says: "Hot on the heels of Martin Sixsmith's excellent 50-part series on Russia, I'm thrilled that Radio 4's dramatisation of Life And Fate will bring this remarkable but little known work to a wider audience. 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 on Radio 4 will be preceded by a series of public events to introduce and discuss the novel and the dramatisation. These events, which are free of charge, will be held at St Peter's College, Oxford University, on Friday 9 September.
They will include a special recording of Radio 4's Start The Week with Andrew Marr and guests including Antony Beevor. Other speakers on the day will include Francis Spufford and Linda Grant, together with the dramatisers and director of the radio drama version and leading specialists on Vasily Grossman's life and work such as Robert Chandler (English translator of Grossman's Life And Fate) and John and Carol Garrard.
The cast for the drama adaptation includes Kenneth Branagh, Greta Scacchi, Janet Suzman, Harriet Walter, Samuel West, Sara Kestelman, John Sessions, Kenneth Cranham, Philip Jackson, Malcolm Storry, Don Gilet and Matthew Marsh.
All episodes of Radio 4's dramatisation of Life And Fate will be available to download for 14 days after broadcast.
The radio adaptation of Life And Fate is by Jonathan Myerson and Mike Walker and is produced and directed by Head of BBC Audio Drama, Alison Hindell. It is based on Robert Chandler's English translation of Grossman's Life And Fate.
*The Archers will be broadcast at the usual time.
Start The Week, recorded at St Peter's, Oxford University, will be broadcast on 12 September.
The Life And Fate Of Vasily Grossman and the readings from Grossman's front-line journalism will be broadcast that same week.
The events at St Peter's, Oxford University, are being run in conjunction with an academic symposium – which will also take place at St Peter's College on the following day – "Vasily Grossman: Ruthless Truth in the Totalitarian Century", jointly organised by Oxford and Aberystwyth Universities.
Tickets to the Oxford events will be available soon from the BBC tickets website.
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