Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Greatest Battle

Note: This is not a review of the book, but of the experience of the book …

So I just finished listening to the audiobook The Greatest Battle by Andrew Nagorski. Man, do I feel dirty.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  The book was well-written, well-researched, and very, very gripping.  It’s just that, over the course of two weeks, I’ve come to finding the subject repugnant.  Literally, skin-crawlingly repugnant.  I began this sick adventure thinking I’d like to research the six-month German-Soviet conflict in more depth (Antony Beevor wrote extensively on the subject and, on a whim, I DVR’d Enemy at the Gates the other day).  Now I want nothing more than a deep, cleansing bath of fire.

Just one fact: towards the end of the book we learn that 26 million Russians died during World War II, 8 million of them soldiers.  A very large percentage of those died at the hands of Stalin – his neverending policy of terror, his incompetence as a military strategist, his overall failure as a human being.  The “man” disgusts me.

Anyway, after returning it at the library, I wondered how long I spent in this nightmare world.  The book was recorded on eleven CDs, 25 segments of 3 minutes each, for a grand total of 825 minutes, better known as 13 hours and 45 minutes.  See the need for a shower?

Just one personal note:  Had I been born in western Russia sometime, say, in 1920, I would not have survived the Greatest Battle, the 1941-42 battle for Moscow.  Most likely I’d have been shot by my own people for something I was not guilty of.  Most were back then.

So to cleanse the palate I borrowed Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg.  For a moment I thought of the Nazis “borrowing” the great composer as they “borrowed” the philosopher Nietzsche, but cast it aside.  There’s something transcendent about great music that lifts it beyond the petty politics and sickening pathologies that “great men” thrust upon us mere mortals.

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