Life and Fate Read Along, Part 3 Chapter 39

Life and Fate Read Along, Part 3 Chapter 39
Photo by Rod Long / Unsplash

This post, covering Part 3, Chapter 39 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.

Yevgenia grows into a veteran — not of the ongoing war, but rather of the Soviet prison system. Day after day she returns to the same office to try and deliver a parcel for Krymov. She marvels at her new boldness, especially since the simple act of filing paperwork used to give her anxious insomnia. 

Day after day, Yevgenia also returns to Lyudmila’s apartment in the evening. The family — now concerned not only in Krymov’s arrest, but also with the possibility of their own — has taken to spending most of their days inside and isolated from other people. 

Throughout this chapter the narrator shows us just how much everyone has changed from the start of Stalingrad. 

Lyudmila has perhaps changed the least. We get little insight into her though this chapter, but she does often interject in conversations. It’s perhaps the most we’ve seen her speak since Tolya’s death. 

Viktor speaks more freely now — although his tendency to speak so openly was previously powered by thoughtlessness, it now tends toward the reckless in response to the sword of Damocles hanging over his head. 

Most interesting (other than Yevengia’s own apparent growth) is Nadya. The novel has shown her bucking her parents at basically every point — but it has not yet given us the character of her rebellion. Speaking more openly with her aunt, Nadya expresses a profoundly critical attitude of the Soviet Union and its dictates. She questions the logics of sacrificing themselves today to the theoretical end of making future generations happy. 

The division between the generations grows apparent in this minute. Although Yevgenia may seem to have a completely different worldview from her sister, the contrast against Nadya reveals how fundamentally similar the sisters’ view of the world is. Both of them are already victims of their society — outcasted over the actions of their husbands — and yet their attitude is one of resigned acceptance. They learn to work with the system as-is.