Life and Fate Read Along, Part 1 Chapter 4

This post, covering Part 1, Chapter 4, 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.

For those of you who have read Grossman’s Stalingrad, it’s worth paying attention to the philosophical evolution between the two books—especially in how Grossman voices doubts about the USSR. 

To that end, we meet another camp inhabitant: Ikonnikov-Morzh, an old Tolstoyan who has been imprisoned by both the Soviets and Nazis. In his life story, a reader might notice parallels being drawn between the two countries. 

He tells Mostovskoy that he has lost his faith in God after watching Nazi soldiers massacre 20,000 Jews. It is not the first time he’s lost faith in a higher idea. Ikonnikov is also haunted by collectivization, the hunger and violence he saw.

He throws that into Mostovskoy’s face, telling him: “I saw the sufferings of the peasantry with my own eyes—and yet collectivization was carried out in the name of “Good”. I don’t believe in your “Good”. I believe in human kindness.” (p.29)