Audacious. Wildly ambitious. Prolific. All describe William T.
Vollmann, author of the seven- volume nonfiction work "Rising Up"
and "Rising Down" and the aSeven Dreamsa sequence of novels, which
the "Chicago Tribune" hailed as alikely to become one of the
masterpieces of the century.a
In "Europe Central," Vollmann presents a mesmerizing series of
intertwined paired stories that compare and contrast the moral
decisions made by various figuresasome famous, some infamous, some
unknownaassociated with the warring authoritarian cultures of
Germany and the USSR in the twentieth century. He conjures up two
generals, one Russian and one German, who collaborate with the
enemy for different reasons and with different results. Another
pairing tells of two heroesaa female Russian partisan martyred at
the beginning of World War II and a young German man who joins the
SS in order to reveal its secrets and halt its crimes. Several
stories concern the complex and elusive Soviet composer Dmitri
Shostakovich and the Stalinist assaults against his work and life;
also explored are the fates of artists and poets such as KAthe
Kollwitz, Anna Akhmatova, and the documentary filmmaker Roman
Karmen. "Europe Central" is another high-wire act of fiction by a
writer of prodigious talent.
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