Life and Fate Read Along, Part 1 Chapter 66

Life and Fate Read Along, Part 1 Chapter 66
Photo by Nick Fewings / Unsplash

This post, covering Part 1, Chapter 66, 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.

In the midst of this mythical, ancient Kalmyk Steppe—as our relatively Russia-centric narrator refers to it—there is still war. The narrator notes that “Here no one even dreamed of an offensive; there was something hopeless about the situation of these troops who had been driven back almost to the end of the world…” (p. 294).Though the Kalmyks probably would not agree with this characterization, there is no doubt that the Steppe occupies a peripheral place in the Russian cultural imagination.

At the staff office, Darensky spends less time on official business and more time trying to get down to business. The chapter is largely consumed with the will-they-won’t-they dynamic that emerges between Darensky and Alla Sergeyevna, the wife of the commanding officer. The narrator describes how “Darensky was quite shaken by his sudden feeling of excitement. It was something he never got used to; it was always as though he was experiencing it for the first time,” (p. 297). 

Darensky studiously analyzes the situation between the women in the Army Headquarters, noting every subtle nuance he can find. The narrator writes that “His considerable experience of women had never degenerated into mere habit; his experience was one thing, his joy and excitement quite another. It was this that made him a true lover of women,” (p. 297).