Life and Fate Read Along, Part 3 Chapter 22

This post, covering Part 3, Chapter 22 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.

Stalingrad, the predecessor novel to Life and Fate, opens with a dinner party. Far from the luxury of Tolsoy’s parties, its guests dine on a long-saved bottle of vodka, a pie made from precious sugar, little in the way of rationed meat. 

The only thing the Shaposhnikov family has to offer in excess is companionship. The sisters bring together their children and their husbands. Mostovskoy the old Bolshevik, Sofya Levinton the doctor, and Pavel Andeyev the worker all join in their minor festivities. It is a small ray of light in their bleak war. 

Around a year forward, now in Life and Fate, nearly a third of that number are dead. The rest are scattered to the winds, only vaguely aware of where the other survivors are. 

Loss pervades this novel — not only by losing a loved one in death, but also the simple loss of communication. This is especially true for Lyudmila, as we discussed yesterday, lives in a sort-of isolation. Perhaps hers is worse than actual isolation; she lives in total loneliness with a family who is uninterested in her.

So there is a spark when her youngest sister, Yevgenia, shows up at her apartment. Their conversation ranges widely, with particular attention toward Soviet imprisonment. But there will be plenty of time to talk about that later.