Life and Fate Read Along, Part 2 Chapter 56

Life and Fate Read Along, Part 2 Chapter 56
Photo by Mike Benna / Unsplash

This post, covering Part 2, Chapter 56 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.

Following his blow-up at Shishakov, Viktor returns to a frosty reception at the institute. Some colleagues don’t acknowledge him at all; others are friendly only when no one else is watching. He finally learns the reason for this from his laboratory staffer Markov — Viktor has been roundly criticized at a meeting of the Party bureau. 

Markov then asks Viktor to keep mum about that very conversation. The pall of suspicion over Viktor can easily grow to encompass others, too. His persistent feelings of loneliness among friends and family are now also reflected in his professional life. 

So when Viktor comes across Marya Ivanova — Sokolov’s wife — on his way home, his immediate reaction is fear. He thinks she has come to tell him something terrible.

She has not. Marya is simply there to speak to him about his conflict with the academy. Unlike everyone else, she understands and accepts his actions. And so they divert from Viktor’s course home, to walk in the park and talk more. 

On one level, we can see the apparent romantic undertone in their interaction. Marya Ivanovna not only accepts Viktor’s actions, she understands why he did it (at the very least, she gives a reason that he agrees with; as is apparent in Grossman’s work, the sea within is rarely so straightforward). It is one of the few times this happens to Viktor. And it does not, for example, seem to happen with his wife anymore.