Any translation from the Russian which hopes to be readable in English requires a slight compression of the original, through the deletion of superfluous words and repetitions. This is especially true of the bureaucratic solemnities of military Russian, but we have, in the cases where Grossman himself was clearly amused by the original formulation, rendered a virtually literal translation to convey the flavour. Certain Red Army terms, like ‘tankists’ and ‘artillerists’ have also been left in their original form. The Russian words, acronyms and initials which we have left untranslated are listed in the glossary.
The Red Army, when talking of the enemy, used to say ‘he’, not ‘they’. As this can be highly confusing in places, we have avoided a literal translation and substituted ‘they’ or ‘the Germans’.
We have provided details on most of the characters mentioned in the text, but it has not been possible to obtain information on Grossman’s colleagues at Krasnaya Zvezda whose personnel files remain closed as the newspaper is still a military unit.
It is extremely hard, especially when dealing with some of the fragmentary notes, to achieve the right balance between intervention in the interests of general understanding and respect for the original jottings. We have strived to keep all explanations to the linking passages and to footnotes, but occasionally words have been added in square brackets to aid comprehension.