Life and Fate Read Along, Part 1 Chapter 17

Life and Fate Read Along, Part 1 Chapter 17
Photo by Hans Reniers / Unsplash

This post, covering Part 1, Chapter 17, 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.

You already know Vasily Grossman the novelist and Vasily Grossman the journalist. This chapter, narrated through Viktor’s perspective, introduces us to Vasily Grossman the scientist. Prior to committing fully to writing, Grossman was a student of chemical engineering and did some testing work in the factories of the then-Ukrainian SSR.

Viktor, on his daily walk to work, is transfixed by the beauty of his work. Beyond an appropriately Soviet appreciation for its social impact, he is a genuine enthusiast of his discipline, thinking that “The more deeply physicists penetrated the heart of the atom, the more clearly they were able to understand the laws governing the luminescence of stars.” (p.79). 

This celestial ambition untethers Viktor from the material concerns — about food, about a son’s whereabouts, about a cramped apartment — that absorb his wife and mother-in-law. Nothing could be happier than a scientist. This is the world that Lyudmila knows he is refusing to share with her.