[T]his slim volume from Soviet journalist and novelist Vasily Grossman is equal parts travelogue, memoir, and religious meditation. As editor Robert Chandler notes, the context of this 1962 mini-memoir is significant: Grossman’s assignment in Armenia came soon after his two most important novels were stymied by censors and before he was diagnosed with cancer. As such, there is a vulnerability to the narration of An Armenian Sketchbook. Grossman writes not knowing what, if anything, his legacy as a writer will be—and suspecting that, as his health is failing him, he does not have much time left to secure that legacy. So while this “sketchbook” is largely about Armenian life and customs as observed by a literary-minded visitor, it’s also about Grossman himself. Chatty observations on his own shortcomings as a translator and the vagaries of his intestines segue seamlessly into somber meditations on the nature of life, religion, and work.