Life and Fate Read Along, Part 2 Chapter 20

Life and Fate Read Along, Part 2 Chapter 20
Photo by Robin Edqvist / Unsplash

This post, covering Part 2, Chapter 20 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.

Krymov finds the air in house 6/1 particularly unpalatable. Once a fighting commissar leading a desperate breakout, he is now reprimanding a similar group of soldiers for insufficient documentation and lacking the correct type of fighting spirit. 

This is not itself an actual contradiction. After all, Stalingrad makes clear that Krymov wasn’t just a de facto military leader during the breakout, but also maintained both political and personal morale. However, there has been some kind of change for Krymov since the old days; we know this because he himself notes it. 

Soon after arriving, Krymov wants — but resists the urge — to impress upon Grekov that he isn’t here as a clean-handed bureaucrat. But that, he reflects, “would be an admission of weakness. And he was here to show strength.” (p. 423). 

In this attempt to show strength, our commissar addresses the disorderly soldiers and calls upon Imperial Russian military history to inspire them. Their response: a sardonic “precisely.”