Grossman was an official war correspondent, and he spent longer in besieged Stalingrad than any other Soviet journalist. He had a unique gift for winning the trust of both senior officers and rank-and-file soldiers. They talked freely to him and he vividly conveys their experience.
Grossman witnessed many terrible things. Nevertheless, he remains one of the most human and humane of writers. His novels are lit by brilliant flashes of humour and he shows love and understanding towards almost all his characters, Russians and Germans alike.
Astonishingly, there is still no adequate Russian edition of the novel. In the interests of Soviet orthodoxy, Grossman's editors made him omit many of his wittiest and most unexpected insights. This edition includes several hundred passages from Grossman's typescripts never before published in any language. Editing this novel has been a complex task which is one of the reasons why readers have had to wait so long for an English translation.
Among the passages edited out from published editions of Stalingrad are mentions of lice and fleas, accounts of sexual infidelity, and a sweet, charming moment when a gifted and heroic officer remembers how he used to enjoy making dresses for his wife. Evidently, this was considered unmanly on his part, or undignified: 'I can still remember measuring my Tamara. I couldn't stop laughing. And she was stroking my hands and saying, "Golden heart and golden hands!"'