Life and Fate Read Along, Part 2 Chapter 31

This post, covering Part 2, Chapter 31 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.

Again, the narrator pulls our perspective out to the macro-level. Speaking from the first person — but not from the perspective of any particular character — it touches on anti-semitism, delivering a history of the behavior and attempting to explain the ways it manifests. 

By and large, the narrator’s explanations are clear, precise, and speak for themselves. I won’t waste your time rehashing them here.

These arguments largely assume that anti-Semitism is a unique form of discrimination, set apart from its peers in its particular character. Your mileage may vary on this particular assertion — but it is absolutely a well-argued point. 

That being said, I do want to focus on an element of the argument that is generalizable: how ambiguous social malaise can easily be transmuted into aggravated bigotry. 

Early in the chapter, the narrator asserts: “Anti-Semitism is always a means rather than an end; it is a measure of the contradictions yet to be resolved. It is a mirror for the failings of individuals, social structures and State systems. Tell me what you accuse the Jews of — I’ll tell you what you’re guilty of.” (p. 481)