Life and Fate Read Along, Part 2 Chapter 58

This post, covering Part 2, Chapter 58 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.

Darensky stares out across the steppe at an imposing moon. With the Red Army’s heavy artillery silhouetted against its reddish-blackness, his mind turns to warriors of more mythical ages. 

“The same moon,” he thinks, “ … had shone over the deserted fields where Prince Igor was to give battle. The same moon had shone when the Persian hosts marched into Greece, when the Roman legions invaded the German forests, when the battalions of the first consul had watched night fall over the pyramids…” (p. 597)

The thought implicitly draws a through line through the history of, so to speak, crossing the rubicon. Moments of incredible import, indelibly changing their portions of the world thereafter. As we know, the same will be true of Stalingrad. 

Such moments, though, are not fought by myths. They are fought simply by people. As Darensky begins to nod off, he listens to two young soldiers — apparently close friends — speaking. They complain about many things: their boots, their superiors, their wives/girlfriends back home who seem to think it’s easier to be on the front line than to be on the homefront.