Life and Fate Read Along, Part 1 Chapter 62

Life and Fate Read Along, Part 1 Chapter 62
Photo by Liam Riby / Unsplash

This post, covering Part 1, Chapter 61, 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.

Perhaps you have lost someone close to you at some point in your life; perhaps you have lost more than one loved one. Perhaps you cried, or you held someone close, or you sat there staring at a wall. Perhaps this state lasted for a few hours, days, weeks. Grief comes upon us strongly and always strangely. 

In this chapter, Grossman highlights the grief of a family in the war — and how it can further stretch already frayed bonds. Viktor and Lyudmila carry on a facsimile of their decade-long family life, but are both immersed in it almost entirely alone. The narrator delivers this metaphor: “Life went on like an iceberg floating through the sea: the underwater part, gliding through the cold and the darkness, supported the upper part, which reflected the waves, breathed, listened to the water splashing…” (p.267)

Their lives go on, supported by habit like a puppet on strings. Yet despite this deep familiarity, we can still see unabridged divides: Lyudmila immerses herself in the menial work of life precisely because she can do it all nigh unthinkingly: “like someone deep in thought, who, quite without noticing them, skirts pot-holes and steps over puddles as he walks down a familiar road.” (p. 271)