Life and Fate Read Along, Part 1 Chapter 9
This post, covering Part 1, Chapter 9, 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 Grossman’s short chapters can concisely heighten the emotional drama or convincingly pose a major question he has for us as readers, his prose shines brightest in some of the war chapters. Today, we have one of those chapters. As General Krylov is shaken awake by the bombardment of the Army HQ, he escapes the fire only to see oil polluting the Volga and quickly lit on fire from the explosions.
“The life that had reigned hundreds of millions of years before, the terrible life of the primeval monsters, had broken out of its deep tombs; howling and roaring, stamping its huge feet, it was devouring everything around it,” (p.39).
And with that, the Volga is almost unrecognizable. The central symbol of Russian identity—the so-called Mother Volga—that physically and metaphorically connects a large portion of people across a vast continent is under attack. Not only is the Volga wounded, but it’s literally on fire.