Life and Fate Read Along, Part 1 Chapter 39

Life and Fate Read Along, Part 1 Chapter 39
Photo by Roman Purtov / Unsplash

This post, covering Part 1, Chapter 39, 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.

As Viktorov’s plane flew higher and higher in the chapter yesterday, more and more of the earth dissolved and was hidden by the plane’s wings. Today, we witnessed our first prisoner line up in Northeast Siberia—something that . Although at this point in Soviet history many people had begun to figure out what was happening in these camps (see Anna Akhmatova’s Requiem), many others, like the Shaposhnikova women a few chapters ago, still believed that those sent to prison camps probably had a reason to be there.

While the serene natural scene from yesterday’s chapter showed us something beautiful and harmonious, today Grossman shows us a different side of the infinite: the monotonous. In this camp system “Day began at the same hour of night, amid the same snow, in every one of the camps and sub-camps of the vast network of Dalstroy,” (p. 175). Of course we will follow Abarchuk and his story, but Grossman first wants us to understand that we are not reading about an isolated incident, but rather a vast system imposed on the prisoners working there.