Life and Fate Read Along, Part 1 Chapter 8

Life and Fate Read Along, Part 1 Chapter 8
Photo by Denny Müller / Unsplash

This post, covering Part 1, Chapter 8, 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.

Today we've been greeted with tension, anticipation, confusion. The Germans slowly, painstakingly advancing. Gaining momentum. It seems that the Soviets are in an impossible situation.

Today we get one of the many <1 page chapters in the novel. Although a one-page chapter might feel like a reprieve from some authors, Grossman uses many of these chapters in the opposite manner. We know how this story ends, but Grossman takes this chance to remind us how close WWII was to ending differently. He reminds us how grim and how hopeless much of war looked particularly for those defending the Eastern Front.

Many of the longer chapters in the novel serve to really dig into the details and minutia of life during wartime. In contrast, chapter 8 zooms out to the scale of the final frontier of the Eastern Front: Stalingrad. Here we see how each of those deeply individual moments of heroic sacrifice, piercing anxiety, or unexpected death are interwoven into the larger fabric of the war. The battle for “each square, courtyard and cellar” takes on a heightened level of importance.