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Vasili Tyorkin: A Book about a Soldier by Alexander Tvardovsky

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Vasili Tyorkin: A Book about a Soldier is one of the great epic poems of the Second World War. Published in army newspapers and broadcast on the radio between 1942 and 1945, it was hugely popular with Soviet soldiers, many of whom believed it was about a real person was real. Private Tyorkin is an accordion-playing Everyman figure, who moves between comedy and reluctant heroism. He is a cheerful grumbler always on the lookout for food and a quick kip, happy to share his last tobacco with his comrades, hating the War but determined to fight the Nazis all the way to Berlin.

After the War Vasili Tyorkin won the Stalin Prize and was the subject of a famous painting by Mikhailovitch Neprintsyev. It was dramatised for the stage in the 1960s, filmed in the 1970s and turned into a cartoon in 2003. There is a statue of Tvardovsky and Tyorkin in Smolensk. The poem was recently voted the 28th most popular poem of all time in Russia.

This new translation by James Womack brilliantly catches hardship, heroism and humour of the ordinary soldier. It is an anti-war poem, an anti-Fascist classic, and a reminder of the extraordinary endurance and heroism of the Soviet people during a war in which we were allies against Nazi Germany.

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