Literature and War Readalong November 30 2012 Meets German Literature Month: The Stalin Front – Die Stalinorgel by Gert Ledig

It is thanks to last’s year’s German Literature Month during which I read Sebald’s On the Natural History of Destruction that I discovered Gert Ledig’s The Stalin Front  –  Die Stalinorgel (1955).

In this novel Ledig depicts the atrocities of the Eastern Front. The fact that he is so explicit about the horrors and destruction is, according to Sebald, the reason why Ledig was forgotten and only rediscovered thanks to Sebald’s lectures and later book.

Here’s what is written about the book on the nyrb site

Gert Ledig (1921–1999) was born in Leipzig and grew up in Vienna. At the age of eighteen he volunteered for the army and was wounded at the battle of Leningrad in 1942. He reworked his experiences during the war in this novel Die Stalinorgel (1955). Sent back home, he trained as a naval engineer and was caught in several air raids. The experience never left him and led to the writing of Vergeltung (Payback) (1956). The novel’s reissue in Germany in 1999 heralded a much publicized rediscovery of the author’s work there.

Here are the first sentences


The Lance-Coropral couldn’t turn in his grave because he didn’t have one. Some three versts from Podrova, forty versts south of Leningrad, he had been caught in a salvo of rockets, been thrown up in the air and with severed hands and head dangling, been impaled on the skeletal branches of what once had been a tree.

I hope that some of the participants of this year’s German Literature Month will join us. As you can deduce from the first lines –  this is a very graphic novel.


The discussion starts on Friday, 30 November 2012.

Further information on the Literature and War Readalong 2012, including all the book blurbs, can be found here.

31 thoughts on “Literature and War Readalong November 30 2012 Meets German Literature Month: The Stalin Front – Die Stalinorgel by Gert Ledig

  1. Throughout my life I have been reading, taking classes and watching documentaries focusing on this subject. Eastern Europe at this time was simply one of the worst places to be in all of human history. In addition the largest battles in all of history were fought in this time and place. In particular, the fighting around Stalingrad changed the course of human history.

    I have not read much fiction on the subject but this looks to be a great but difficult to read book.

    • It’s fascinating and harrowing topic. The German movie Stalingrad is one of my favourites but I’m afraid this book will be even more realistic. What happened on the Eastern Front was pure butchery. The biggest tradegy or irony is that the German troops were sacrificed by their leader.

  2. I’m going to brace myself and read it but I do have a question. Is it important that we all read the same edition because it is also listed as The Stalin Organ – same author, same translator but published in Granta in 2004 and therefore more readily available in the UK

    • It should be the same book but as so often, the UK and the US title are different. I hope it’s not going to be too gruesome but on the other hand, war really is horrible, on the battle field even more that anywhere else.

  3. This is in my to be read pile.I wonder if you know about the controversy over Christa Wolf who supposedly collaborated with the stasi in a minor way.She apparently traveled to the West where she met Ledig and was asked to report back to the stasi about him and his contacts in the GDR.

  4. I’m impressed by the people who can read this. I do think that it’s important literature and that we should never forget. But as you know, I find this sort of thing hard to read lately. I’ll be interested in the discussion it provokes, though.

    • I’m sure it will not be easy but important. I’m looking forward to the discussion. What’s for sure is that the books which were a bit more drastic, led to more interesting discussions.

  5. This looks like an interesting book, Caroline. I haven’t heard of Gert Ledig and the experiences in the Eastern front are typically glossed over. So this is a really new discovery. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and that of the other participants. Happy reading! I like the fact that Literature and War readalong meets German Literature Month 🙂

  6. wow…that is indeed very graphic!! but I want to read it…I know it might sound strange but I can easily stomach book with strong description of death or violence (loving SK is one of the reasons, I suppose).

    I really need to make a credit card…so many book I want to read.

  7. Pingback: German Literature Month – Week I Links « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  8. I found a remaindered copy of this in one of my go-to bookstores last week, Caroline, so I’ll be reading it along with you for German Lit Month (alongside two non-German big books on war themes). The first 10 pages or so, which I dipped into today, remind me of Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate. I’ll have to look for some cheerier reading sometime soon, though, I suspect!

    • This is excellent news. I’ve read the first 2o pages and think it’s quite sober. The characters have no names but, yes, certainly, harsh. It’s interesting that he reminds you of Grossman, he will be on the list for 2013.

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