Quick Study: Daniil Granin is a prose writer known for realistic, often documentary, fiction that draws on scientific and ethical issues in industry during the 1940s and 1950s, as well as experiences during World War 2.
The Granin File: Though Daniil Granin published stories as a teenager, he didn’t begin consistently publishing until completing college, serving in World War 2 as a volunteer, and becoming an engineer. Around 1950 he published “The Second Variant” and “Engineer Korsakov’s Victory” (a.k.a. “Dispute Over the Ocean”), about rivalries between the USSR and the US. Granin become a full-time writer after the success of Those Who Seek, a Thaw Era novel about electrical engineers. Despite the thaw, Granin’s 1956 story “A Personal Opinion” drew criticism, including from Molotov, who Granin said told him, at the former Stalin dacha, the story was “against the party,” though he praised Those Who Seek. Granin’s other Soviet-era books include the 1987 documentary novel The Bison, based on the true story of a Soviet geneticist who worked in Germany for 20 years during the Stalin era and faced consequences upon returning home, and nonfiction about the blockade of Leningrad co-written with Ales Adamovich. Granin’s post-Soviet writings include Evenings with Peter the Great, one of many works adapted for cinema or TV, and My Lieutenant, a novel about World War 2 that won the 2012 Big Book Award.
Psssst………: Fought in the Soviet tank troops during World War 2, serving as a volunteer… An asteroid discovered in 1979 was named after Granin: 3120 Dangrania… Granin was a people’s deputy of the USSR during the perestroika era… Grigorii Romanov, a local and national Communist Party official who survived the blockade of Leningrad, criticized Granin in 2004 for Leningrad Under Siege, which Granin wrote with Ales Adamovich; Romanov called the book incorrect and subjective, and said Granin wanted to surrender the city… It’s likely Romanov had other “issues” with Granin, whose “Our Dear Roman Avdeevich,” a satirical portrait of Romanov first published in 1990, probably didn’t endear him much to the former Party boss, either… Granin says he wrote My Lieutenant after finding diary entries from his time at the front and early post-war years; he wrote the book because he felt “a need for a conversation with that young lieutenant.”
Granin’s Places: Born, according to the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, in Volyn, Russia… Studied in Leningrad during World War 2, graduating in 1940 then working at the Kirov Factory, which made tanks…
The Word on Granin: In a review in the June 2012 issue of the “thick” journal Znamia, Aleksandr Melikhov discusses Granin’s My Lieutenant, calling the book “so filled with powerful and significant material that it’s nearly impossible to identify anything most important—one would need to retell it all.” The characters are lifelike, says Melikhov, and Granin writes with an “unprecedented personal openness but Granin wouldn’t be Granin if his voice weren’t an echo of the Russian people in some important way.” Melikhov concludes the review with, “As a result, the writer has achieved the nearly impossible: almost seventy years after the war, he has broadened the canon of war prose.”
Granin on Granin & Writing: Speaking in an interview with Arguments and Facts about winning the 2012 Big Book Award for My Lieutenant, Granin said, “I’ve had lots of various prizes but this one holds a special joy for me. The thing is that I never truly wrote about my war. I put it off: there was good war literature without me, and I didn’t want to compete. But the years passed and I hadn’t written about my war… I wrote about the first two years of the war. I wrote about how they pursued us and how we fled. Why about that particular period? Because it was the hardest, the most tragic.”
Granin Recommends: In an interview with the magazine Itogi, when Granin discusses his friends in Germany, he says he’s learned a lot about war memories from Lev Tolstoy’s War and Peace. He suggests the interviewer reread the scene where Pierre Bezukhov meets the French officer, saying, “It would seem they’d be irreconcilable enemies but there’s no malice between them. Bezukhov understands he’s seeing soldiers who were forced to fulfill an order. The wounded moan from pain like the Russians, the living dream, just like ours, about surviving and returning home… Hatred is destructive, it’s good at the front but dangerous in peacetime.”
Photo credit: Kremlin.ru