I started reading An Armenian Sketchbook by Vasily Grossman a few days ago. It is the February book in my NYRB Classics subscription. And oh my goodness this is a fantastic book! I’m not going to say anything else about it but instead give you a bit from the beginning of the book to taunt and tease you. Okay, maybe not taunt, but definitely tease.

I first glimpsed Armenia from the train, early in the morning: greenish-gray rock — not mountains or crags but scree, flat deposits of stone. A mountain had died, its skeleton had been scattered over the ground. Time had aged the mountain; time had killed the mountain — and here lay the mountain’s bones.


Armenian village houses are low, flat-roofed rectangles built out of large slabs of gray stone. There is no greenery; the houses are surrounded not by trees and flowers but by dense scatterings of gray stone. The houses seem not to have been built by human hands. Sometimes a gray stone comes to life and begins to move. A sheep. The sheep too must have been born from stone; probably they eat powdered stone and drink the dust of stone.

Travel. Meditative. Quiet, Thoughtful. Are you hooked?