Life and Fate Read Along, Part 2 Chapter 17

Life and Fate Read Along, Part 2 Chapter 17
Photo by Jez Timms / Unsplash

This post, covering Part 2, Chapter 1 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.

Katya watches with presumably bated breath — and then Seryozha emerges from the darkness. Then he takes her hand and they embrace. The ensuing moments evoke innumerable other written works trying to show a youthful love: the exploratory intimacy, the uncertain kisses, certain (perhaps over-certain) declarations that this is for ever. 

But even in these moments the war is impossible to escape. Katya, who sleeps in a bombed-out cellar, is lice-ridden and itchy. They can only see when a detonating bomb illuminates the other. 

I am also struck by the childishness of the moment. A reader cannot escape remembering this pair — who face or deal death on a daily basis — are teenagers. As they embrace, Katya closes her eyes. The narrator tells us, “They’d both of them heard the same saying at school: if you kiss with your eyes open, you’re not in love.” (p. 416)