Okay, I admit it. I'd never heard of Vasily Grossman until Radio 4 started putting on endless trailers for the dramatization of his book. The fact that it's called Life and Fate (which evoked Woody Allen rather than Tolstoy in my mind) just confirmed me in the suspicion that the whole thing was a wind-up, on a par with the spaghetti tree. What could be more amusing for the Kenneth Branaghs of this world than to have all the villagers of Hampstead nodding sagely about how this really was the great twentieth-century novel, while laughing into their sleeves because they were in on the fact that it was all a gigantic spoof.
I now admit my suspicions were unfounded. Grossman and his book do, it appears, exist.