Life and Fate Read Along, Part 1 Chapter 16
This post, covering Part 1, Chapter 16, 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.
Yesterday, we spoke about the twin pains known well by all families of war: absence and loss. Both change people. We have already seen how each Shaposhnikov’s private burdens affects their relationships. In this chapter, Grossman develops that dynamic by showing more of how each person inflicts themselves on their family.
Lyudmila and her mother Alexandra argue often, each holding on to grievances that serve as ready-to-go catalysts — but each are just a way to avoid talking about the core issue. They are much like Yeremenko and Chuykov, who are too bound by duty or masculine pride to talk about their care for the other or even the meaning of their fight.
But here there is a key difference: they actually do break through, briefly. As Lyudmila thinks out loud about moving back to Moscow after the war, Alexandra remarks that she won’t be coming with.
“It was a difficult moment,” the narrator remarks in the moment after. “Everything that had troubled both mother and daughter was now out in the open. Lyudmila, however, took offense — as though she herself were to blame. Alexandra Vladimirovna saw the expression of hurt on her face and felt guilt.” (p.76).