Life and Fate Read Along, Part 3 Chapter 31

Life and Fate Read Along, Part 3 Chapter 31
Photo by Matt Reiter / Unsplash

This post, covering Part 3, Chapter 31 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.

Moving on from one retreat to another, we now move to the Nazis who, beginning their retreat, spend much of the day scavenging for food and arguing over fuel rations.

Suddenly facing an insurmountable obstacle in the way of their seemingly infinite expansion, the prosaic concerns of food and fuel have come back with a vengeance. The narrator describes how “All their supplies of fuel were now at the disposition of General Schmidt, the chief of staff. And he’d rather see you die ten deaths than sign you an order for five litres of petrol,” (p. 729). Even fuel for common personal items like cigarette lighters has become scarce.

Lendard, a company commander traveling to the 6th Army Headquarters, gives the reader an overview of the situation. He “watched the anxious, unshaven men hewing off slabs of frozen horsemeat with hatchets. one soldier, standing between the horse’s exposed ribs, looked like a carpenter up in the rafters of an unfinished roof,” (p. 729). Instead of building their new society, the comparison is instead inverted and all energy has suddenly been directed to the primal instinct to survive.