Life and Fate Read Along, Part 1 Chapter 49

This post, covering Part 1, Chapter 49, 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 we have come to understand, several characters that Levinton meets in the cattle-car are all from the same town. To this point, we have only known it briefly — as a scene of terror for Borisovna the librarian, as a curiosity for David — but here the narrator introduces us finally to the town’s life, its people. 

Here we find culture and time side-by-side. Ukrainians and Jews; a catholic church and a synagogue in the Soviet Union; informants and their neighbors. “Everything was jumbled together,” the narrator tells us, “Kobzar, Pushkin and Tolstoy, physics textbooks, Lenin’s Left-Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder…, teachers from the raykom, orators and troublemakers from the district trade-union soviets, truck-drivers, detectives, lecturers in Marxism…” (p. 211)

David’s anxieties about death remain — highlighted in an horror he feels watching animals being loaded into cattle-wagons — but much more of the chapter is dedicated to life. David playing among cherry trees, offering sugar lumps to a calf; a child’s birth; a gift of food for a neighbor.