Life and Fate Read Along, Part 3 Chapter 50

This post, covering Part 3, Chapter 50 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.

Finally nearing his moment of triumph, Novikov receives Yegenia’s letter. He does not take the news well. 

“He walked up and down the room,” the narrator tells us, amid a stiflingly claustrophobic description of Novikov’s mood. “He looked again at the letter on his desk. It was like a white, sloughed-off skin that a viper had just crawled out of. He put his hands to his chest and sides. The viper wasn’t there. It must have crawled inside him already. It must be burning his heart with poison.” (p. 813)

In the following moments, Novikov’s mood shifts quickly and repeatedly. Moments of understanding are crushed by sudden rage; desperate longing leads to violent threats; he drinks vodka; he tears up her letters; he curses her with cruel names. It is an uncomfortably intimate moment. 

What is there to be said about such heartbreak? Simply reading Grossman’s writing covers the pain and loss of control. It is curious, though, to read this as Grossman is wrapping up his many plotlines.