Life and Fate Read Along, Part 1 Chapter 60

This post, covering Part 1, Chapter 60, 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.

After Seryozha is returned to Army HQ to brief the general, he stays there for two days. Unlike house 6/1, where he may be called to action at any time, his only order now is to hurry up and wait. This gives us a chance to peer into his thoughts — and also steep in the contrasts between the frontline and command. 

Several chapters ago, an officer raised some alarm about the lack of political discipline at house 6/1. We know learn that these conversations run much deeper than they likely know, with Seryozha recollecting that Grekov would sometimes talk "about how things had been in the army before the war: the purges, the constant examinations, the bribes you had to pay for an apartment. He talked about men who'd become generals in 1937 by writing dozens of statements and denunciations unmasking supposed enemies of the people." (p. 256)

A dangerous admission, to be sure. But who is listening out in house 6/1? There is no fear of taps, no fear of informants there. So they speak about the purges, and so they talk about the ill effects of collectivization. They also talk about literature, talk about their work before the war. One soldier, a former conservatory student, insists on singing even as he sneaks toward the German lines.