Life and Fate Read Along, Part 2 Chapter 48

This post, covering Part 2, Chapter 48 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.

Sofya Levinton, David and the other condemned are pushed into the gas chamber. Throughout Life and Fate, as we have so often discussed, Grossman has emphasized the humanity of these thousands, tens of thousands, millions of Jews who have been or will be murdered en masse. The final, perfectly inhuman gas chamber puts this effort into its most dire state. 

The purpose of this machinery is to remove all humanity from its victims; and we are now at the apex of its power. It does not simply erase one’s identity as they are reduced to their most reflexive state of survival; it also seems to erase any sense that a person was ever an individual. 

Levinton loses David in the mass of bodies “But immediately Sofya Levinton receded into the past,” the narrator describes his ensuing moments.. “Nothing existed except the present moment. Beside him, mouths were breathing, bodies were touching each other, people’s thoughts and feelings fusing together.” (p. 547)

Yet still, even in this horrible state, the narrator choses to focus the action on a small family grasping at each other with all their strength. When the flow of people pushes David back into Levinton’s arms, she adopts this same strategy and grasps him with all her strength.