Life and Fate Read Along, Part 1 Chapter 11

Life and Fate Read Along, Part 1 Chapter 11
Photo by Matt Seymour / Unsplash

This post, covering Part 1, Chapter 11, is part of The Slavic Literature Pod’s chapter a day read along of Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate. Learn more about our project here.

If you haven’t picked up on the similarities between Grossman and Tolstoy, today we get a perfect line: “The intuition of a deafened and isolated soldier often turns out to be nearer the truth than judgements delivered by staff officers as they study the map,” (p. 47). This scene quite closely resembles many of the war room scenes with General Kutuzov in War and Peace where he quickly unravels his German counterparts planning by pondering questions along the lines of “what if the troops have moved from their map positions?”

Importantly in this chapter, Grossman starts to lay the foundation for the relationship between war and ideology. He talks about how the perception in war changes and “‘We’ becomes a frail, timid ‘I,’” (p. 48). Although the physical and the “real” play a part in influencing these thoughts, we must take notice of how Grossman foregrounds perception. Though he resists a view that may be described as perception exclusively shaping reality, the importance he places on perception can help explain both the importance he places on momentum in warfare and some of the more alluring but dangerous aspects of ideology.