Life and Fate Read Along, Part 1 Chapter 33

This post, covering Part 1, Chapter 33, 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.

Finally, Lyudmila is reunited with Tolya. As she kneels at his grave — marked with the large, confident letters “SHAPOSHN” and ended with small, cramped “ikov” — the world around her disappears. “What silence there was everywhere.” (p. 156)

When we have spoken about Lyudmila’s grief up to this point, its portrayal has mostly been an abstraction. We have seen how it morphs and darkens the landscape. We have seen how suffocating it is to be around people who just don’t understand. But we have had little insight into her exact thoughts. 

Here the narrators opens those to us and we find a mother unable to accept what has come to pass. Recounting her experiences in toto would only cheapen Grossman’s writing. I do want to zoom in on one moment of characterization for Lyudmila. As she sits at Tolya’s grave in a delirium, she thinks: “No one had ever loved him. … No one had ever loved her either; the people close to her only saw her failings… He was the only person who loved her.” (p. 155)