Life and Fate Read Along, Part 3 Chapter 24

Life and Fate Read Along, Part 3 Chapter 24
Photo by Jeremy Thomas / Unsplash

This post, covering Part 3, Chapter 24 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 Lyudmila and Yevgenia are reuniting for the first time in nearly a year, Viktor heads to see his old mentor, Chepyzhin. 

You may recall Chepyzhin was also formerly the head at their mutual institute, and resigned amidst a shift toward apparatchik control over scientific goals. This decision — along with his general withdrawal from scientific life — is an important one to keep in mind during this chapter. 

Although Viktor hopes to commiserate with his old mentor about his ongoing fall from grace, it quickly becomes apparent to both men that they are having two parallel but mostly unconnected conversations. Viktor is concerned with his personal struggles; while Chepyzhin, unhappy with the direction of Soviet science, explains why he has withdrawn from it altogether. 

This latter explanation lapses into grandiose philosophizing, with Chepyzhin arguing that humanity’s long moral arc, its directive as a species is to use its talents and crafts to create greater freedom for itself. “This is the very essence of evolution,” he says, “the highest being is the one with the most freedom.” (p. 690)

This viewpoint ultimately bends toward the messianic with Chepyzhin ultimately declaring that humankind will one day look down upon God itself.