Life and Fate. By Vasily Grossman. Directed and Produced by Alison Hindell. Kenneth Branagh, Janet Suzman, David Tennant, Greta Scacchi and Harriet Walter star in this eight hour dramatisation of Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman. Set against the ferocious Battle of Stalingrad, Life and Fate is a sweeping historical tale that charts the fate of both a nation and a family in the turmoil of war and is increasingly hailed as the most important Russian novel of the 20th century. Its comparison of Stalinism with Nazism was considered by Soviet authorities to be so dangerous that the manuscript itself was arrested and Grossman was told that it would not be published for at least 200 years. He died in 1964, never knowing that his book would be smuggled to the West and eventually published in 1980.
Life and Fate 01: Anna’s Letter. By Vasily Grossman. Viktor’s mother, Anna, writes him a farewell letter in September 1941. As a Jew in Berdichev, in the Ukraine now occupied by the Nazis, she has been forced into a ghetto and understands what will come next. The letter somehow finds its way to Viktor and is to be a source of strength for him in days to come.
Life and Fate 02: Krymov and Zhenya – Lovers Once. By Vasily Grossman. October 1942. Evacuated from Moscow to Kuibyshev before the invading German army, the beautiful Yevgenia (Zhenya), Lyuda’s sister, is alone. While she tackles Soviet bureaucracy for the residence permit she needs for food, her ex-husband, the Commissar Nikolai Krymov, is posted into the heart of the battle for Stalingrad, hundreds of miles away.
Life and Fate 03: Journey. By Vasily Grossman. Sofya, a Jewish doctor, is taken prisoner in Stalingrad and put on a cattle-truck going west to Poland. A German SS officer, Liss, oversees the building of the gas chambers and entertains Eichmann on an inspection tour. Liss is convinced that the Nazi and Soviet systems are more similar than their followers like to think.
Life and Fate 04: Building 6/1 – Those Who Were Still Alive. By Vasily Grossman. Late October 1942. Building 6/1 is a former apartment building in the centre of Stalingrad, being held by a rag-tag band of Russian soldiers against all the odds, in the teeth of the German advance. Soon the building, and its charismatic Commander, Captain Grekov, are a legend across Russia. But inside the building, Commissar Krymov has arrived to tackle what appears to be subversion, while the radio operator, Katya, falls in love with his nephew, Seryozha.
Life and Fate 05: Novikov’s Story. By Vasily Grossman. November, 1942. Novikov, a tank commander, prepares his troops for Operation Uranus, the campaign which is to be the turning point in the Battle of Stalingrad. On his way to the front, he visits Zhenya, his lover, in Kuibyshev. He dreams of marrying her but she is still torn between him and Krymov. She tells an anecdote about Krymov and Trotsky, a slip of the tongue that leads to betrayal.
Life and Fate 06: Krymov in Moscow. By Vasily Grossman. Moscow, Winter 1942. Commissar Nikolai Krymov has been denounced and arrested. He is taken to the dreaded Lubyanka prison in Moscow: a place where, in the past, he has denounced others. Meanwhile his ex-wife Zhenya arrives in Moscow, to stay with Viktor and Lyuda, and to face the consequences of her actions.
Life and Fate 07: Viktor and Lyuda. By Vasily Grossman. Viktor, a nuclear physicist, is evacuated with his family from Moscow eastwards to Kazan. It’s October 1942 and the Russians are defending Stalingrad from the ferocious attack of the Germans. Viktor has a revelatory breakthrough in his research but his wife Lyuda learns of the death of her son and her grief drives a wedge between the couple: Viktor is drawn to the kindness of Marya, the wife of his close colleague.
Life and Fate 08: Viktor and the Academy. By Vasily Grossman. Viktor’s scientific breakthrough has not brought him the success he expected. Instead he is gradually ostracised for his ‘anti-Soviet’ science. He starts to dread the knock at the door. Zhenya’s visit to Moscow brings some distraction but it is Marya in whom he longs to confide.
Life and Fate 09: Fortress Stalingrad. By Vasily Grossman. As the Russian tanks encircle Stalingrad, the commanders of the German 6th Army realise that the end is in sight but Hitler will not permit a surrender. Spiridonov abandons the power station to join his daughter, Vera, and her new baby on a barge frozen into the Volga. As the citizens of Stalingrad start to reclaim their wrecked city, the family begin to make plans for the future.
Life and Fate 10: Vera And Her Pilot. By Vasily Grossman. In a forest in northern Russia, pilot Lenya longs to see his pregnant girlfriend Vera. She is stranded in Stalingrad with her father, Stepan. Her mother (another sister of Lyuda) has drowned in the Volga. She watches the planes hoping to catch sight of Lenya.
Life and Fate 11: Abarchuk. By Vasily Grossman. Lyuda’s ex-husband, Abarchuk, is still a staunch believer in the Party even though he was sent to a Russian labour camp some years ago. In November 1942, he assumes his son, Tolya, is fighting for the motherland and composes a letter to him about his beliefs; beliefs that may have been shaken by a recent encounter with his former mentor, Magar.
Life and Fate 12: Lieutenant Peter Bach. By Vasily Grossman. Peter Bach, a German officer, is wounded and treated at a military field hospital in November 1942. The brief respite from the fighting gives him time to contemplate his secret affair with a Russian girl, Zina, an affair that he roughly denies when confronted with it.
Life and Fate 13: A Hero of the Soviet Union. By Vasily Grossman. November, 1942. As Krymov recovers from his head wound, he questions his own beliefs. After speeches marking the 25th anniversary of the Revolution at which he is cold-shouldered by his colleagues, he slips out to find Stepan Spiridonov at the Central Power Station. He recalls the heady days of 1917 and Lenin’s funeral and compares those ideals with the days of the show-trials.
The Lamp. By Linda Cracknell. In a remote Scottish library, a farmer’s widow and a visiting Kenyan librarian bond unexpectedly over a shared love of books. Recorded on location at Innerpeffray Library in Perthshire, a museum celebrating Scotland’s first public lending library.
The People’s Princess. By Shelagh Stephenson. Facing financial ruin, George, Prince of Wales was obliged to marry his first cousin Princess Caroline of Brunswick. But if he had been expecting a docile partner with whom he could maintain appearances, George had seriously underestimated his wife-to-be.
EM Forster Short Stories (R) – EM Forster, best known for twentieth century classics including A Passage to India, A Room with a View and Maurice, was also a prolific writer of short stories. In them he explored many of the themes central to his novels, including the morals of the middle classes in the early twentieth century, and his fascination with culture and mores of the beguiling South. The reader is Dan Stevens.
The Story of the Siren. A Sicilian man reveals the tale of his ill-fated brother, who was cursed by a sea nymph.
The Road From Colonus. Mr Lucas’s tiresome family thwart his plans for a sojourn in the idyllic Greek countryside
The Obelisk. A chance encounter leads an unhappily married couple to find solace in forbidden ways.
The Searchers. By Alan Le May. Dramatised for radio by Adrian Bean. Episode one of a new adaptation of the classic western novel, upon which the famous film was based. Texas, 1848. When Comanches attack the Edwards family’s settlement on the Texas plains, they kidnap two girls – seventeen year-old Lucy and ten year-old Debbie. So Amos Edwards sets out on the dangerous mission to recover his two nieces, with the help of his nephew Mart and a rag-tag bunch of searchers. Alan Le May’s 1954 novel is a timeless work of western fiction and a no-holds-barred portrait of the real American frontier. It explores the fear and the hatred that underpinned the lives of both the white settlers and the Native Americans. And what emerges is a violent account of a creeping genocide, as one culture inevitably triumphs over the other.
Black Cinderella Two Goes East. (sometimes referred to as Black Cinderella II Goes East) An all-star pantomime, with ex-members of the Cambridge Footlights broadcasted on 25 December 1978. The programme is notable for being one of only a few radio programmes (co)-produced by Douglas Adams while he was employed by the BBC as a radio producer, also for giving a significant role to a serving politician, John Pardoe. The hour-long programme was written by Clive Anderson and Rory McGrath and was co-produced by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd.
The programme featured performances by:
Richard Baker, Narrator
Tim Brooke-Taylor, Timothenia and the King
Rob Buckman, Prince Charming
John Cleese, Fairy Godperson
Peter Cook, Prince Disgusting
Graeme Garden, Gardenia and Manny
David Hatch, himself
Maggie Henderson, Cinderella
Jo Kendall, Wicked Stepmother and Princess Sally
Richard Murdoch, Baron Ofbeef
Bill Oddie, himself, Town Crier and Talking Horse
Douglas Adams had to follow the show’s writers to Cambridge in order to get them to work on the script, and had to pick up the finished script from a messenger on a train. Adams also recorded a reluctant John Cleese at home. Cleese had vowed never to work for BBC Radio again, following a dispute over a sketch in the series John Cleese’s Sketchbook. Cleese’s lines were then played from a tape recorder into the broadcast programme.
Red Shoes. Red Shoes. By Hans Christian Andersen. This dark tale collected by Hans Christian Andersen is reimagined for radio by Frances Byrnes and stars Lizzy Watts as the teenage Karen whose vanity and skittishness compel her to demand a forbidden pair of red shoes. But as she had been warned on countless occasions, the red shoes are so imbued with sin and lasciviousness that they utterly destroy her both spiritually and corporally. In so doing, this version of The Red Shoes shirks none of Anderson’s ruthlessness or darkness. Fairytale this may be but its bleak warning against wanton behaviour under threat of a violent and bloody demise, holds nothing back from young and old alike.
Pather Panchali – Song Of The Road. By Bibhuti Bhushan Banerji. The vivid and moving story of life in a rural village on the brink of change, seen through the eyes of two children. The novel deals with the relationship between destruction and creation, and is an uplifting tale of growth and love. It is a beautiful and atmospheric novel that inspired an iconic film by Satyajit Ray in 1955. The heart of the novel and this dramatisation is the love between brother and sister. It charts family life through a collection of daily events that cumulatively create a vivid and unforgettable world. In Tanika Gupta’s dramatisation Opu, now a grown man narrates the story, looking back on his childhood and to the people he has loved, in particular his older sister Durga.Tanika Gupta is an award-winning writer who has written extensively for radio, theatre, film and television. She was recently awarded an MBE; named Asian Woman of Achievement (Arts and Culture) and nominated for an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement.
Resurrection. By Leo Tolstoy. Robert Forrest’s dramatisation of Leo Tolstoy’s last major work. Katerina Maslova is a young prostitute on trial for the murder of one of her clients. Serving on the jury, Prince Dmitri recognises the young woman as the girl he seduced many years before.Believing himself partly responsible for her predicament, he embarks upon a complex legal attempt to reverse the sentence passed upon her. Prince Dmitri follows the young prostitute to Siberia. Having been unable to reverse the sentence for murder served in error upon her, he proposes marriage in the hope of redeeming the wrongs he did to her as a girl. But he finds his proposal contested by a fellow prisoner Simonson, a man who has already made all the sacrifices in life that Prince Dmitri only threatens to make.
Gargantua and Pantagruel. By Francois Rabelais.
Gargantua (episode 1) depicts a young giant, reduced to laughable insanity by an education at the hands of paternal ignorance, old crones and syphilitic professors, who is rescued and turned into a cultured Christian knight.
Pantagruel (episode 2) concentrates on the story of Gargantua’s son, Pantagruel and his morally dubious friend Panurge, as they go on a quest to discover whether marriage is for them. On the way they have many adventures before they come before the Seer of the Holy Bottle who gives them a definitive judgement. This tale is a dizzying blend of fantasy, comedy, philosophy and scatological humour.All the big mock-heroic novels that followed – Don Quixote, Tristram Shandy, Gulliver’s Travels, Ulysses – are about mess, they’re about slops and slime, encyclopedic in their efforts to encompass humanity in all its bawdy, chaotic, grungy, and painful reality. And like Gargantua and Pantagruel they’re also very funny. The Rabelaisian world view is founded on the assumption that the humourless are not yet wise – and these tales insist you learn to laugh at humanity.