Life and Fate Read Along, Part 1 Chapter 59

This post, covering Part 1, Chapter 59, 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.

Although reading Stalingrad is not necessary to understand Life and Fate, it does help in several places. One of the foremost of those is an easier understanding of the Shaposhnikova family; whereas Stalingrad introduces them all together, Life and Fate has instead cast them into winds fanned by a multi-continental war. 

We are already familiar with mother and chemist Alexandra, her troubled daughters Zhenya and Lyudmila; we know Lyudmila's discontented husband Viktor as well as the children Nadya  and (deceased) Tolya. The last segment of the main family: daughter Marusya Spiridonova, killed during the evacuation of Stalingrad, along her her still-living husband Stepan and children Vera and Seryozha. 

As with the rest of the family, the Spiridonovs are also cast to the wind. We left Stephan and newly-pregnant nurse Vera still in the city at the end of Stalingrad. Now we come to find that Seryozha was among the soldiers of house 6/1, one of the few who avoided Katya. 

Grossman here draws our attention to the way that the war has broken down the Shaposhkinova family. Of course, Marusya and Tolya are dead. But even the living have precious little idea where their siblings and cousins and in-laws are. Even if this were not the case — if the dead walked again, if the living reconnected — where could they go in this world at war?