Life and Fate Read Along, Part 1 Chapter 21

Life and Fate Read Along, Part 1 Chapter 21
Photo by Duncan Kidd / Unsplash

This post, covering Part 1, Chapter 21, 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.

We have spent time in the camps, time on the battlefield, and time on the homefront. Finally, we spend it with the most important figures yet: Party apparatchiks. 

Up to this point, we have discussed how Grossman has poked fun at or philosophically undermined his country. But this is the first chapter where he situates us in the midst of the Party. Dementiy Trifonovich, who headed up a Ukrainian region prior to its capture by the Nazis, sits with old friends and drinks to his new post as a commissar. 

But as the group talks, it is impossible to ignore the tension weighing them down. Even in Dementiy’s home, they are watched by a portrait of Stalin; and Dementiy, reflecting on what it took to get to the top, reveals to the reader that such success requires one to kill their ego. There can be no opinion which does not benefit the Party.