Life and Fate Read Along, Part 3 Chapter 10

Life and Fate Read Along, Part 3 Chapter 10
Photo by Jakob Braun / Unsplash

This post, covering Part 3, Chapter 10 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.

As Novikov delays his tank corps’ advance, Grossman shifts our viewpoint up to the USSR’s highest echelon: Stalin, staring at a map of the battle, and demanding to know why the tanks haven’t gone in yet. 

Although this is not the first time Stalin has entered the text as a character, this is the most Grossman has written from “his” perspective. On one level, this impresses upon the reader the tenacity of Novikov’s resolve — delaying orders personally given by Stalin. 

But on another level, it also operates similarly to Grossman’s portrayal of Hitler and Mussolini at the start of Stalingrad. These systems of power are made up of people and, ultimately, they are always looking up for examples of how to behave. In Germany and Italy, that’s der Fuhrer and Il Duce respectively. In the Soviet Union, we have Koba.

There is a common thread in both of these portrayals — the place of power. For the Fascists, Grossman displays that desire for power as a reaction to a sort-of impotence. Much the same is true in this depiction of Stalin, although the language is different. His version of Stalin draws power from the ability to wield strength — not simply a personal strength, his power is drawn from the strength and legitimacy of the USSR.