Life and Fate Read Along, Part 1 Chapter 47

This post, covering Part 1, Chapter 47, 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.

And then we come to David, the small boy Levinton finds mostly unattended in the cattle car. As the narrator informs us, David only vaguely recalls his life since the start of the war — in this chapter, that’s boiled down to his terrifying experience hiding from German soldiers after they have apparently already emptied the ghetto he lives in. 

David and a relative’s family are sequestered behind a false wall in the attic, with the menace of discovery hanging over the whole chapter. The tension hits its peak when a canine may have caught their scent. The terrible silence that follows is broken by a young girl’s cry. Then — her mother seems to kill her in a panicked attempt to keep the child quiet.

This is one of the few memories David can recall since the start of the war. There is precious little to say in the face of writing like this, perhaps why the narrator ends David’s recollection only a sentence after the killing. “He could remember everything that had happened before the war,” the narrator then tells us. “Those memories came back to him all the time. He had become like an old man – living on his past, loving it and cherishing it.” (p. 205-206)