Life and Fate Read Along, Part 3 Chapter 51

This post, covering Part 3, Chapter 51 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.

When Getmanov was assigned to Novikov’s tank corps earlier, he considered it a mild affront that he and Nyeudobnov — Party members — should be subordinated to a mere military officer. 

The battle of Stalingrad made their condition a necessary evil (from their point of view, at least); and while the battle raged, General Yeremenko clearly relieved on Novikov as the true leader of the tank corps. Now, though, the battle is over. The spirit of the war, the narrator claims, is changing. The aim is no longer just survival; with the Red Army on the offensive, there are medals to be won. 

For Getmanov and Nyeudobnov’s part, they’ve already “earned” their rewards of being attached to Novikov’s corps (although it’s unclear if their forces did end up being the first to re-enter the Ukrainian SSR). Early in this chapter, we learn that Nyeudobnov is slated to become party secretary of an obkom in Ukraine’s Donbas region. 

Novikov, though, has a much less certain future. By order of the general staff, he has relinquished his role to Nyeudobnov and returned to Moscow. It is unclear to everyone involved if he will be coming back. 

A reader might suspect this is related to Getmanov’s mysterious letter earlier in the novel, but the narrator quickly dispels that: the truth is that his letter supported Novikov’s decision and protested any effort to demote him. The rumor is that his troubles relate to Krymov’s arrest.

Here we see the ultimate import of living as the apparatchiks do: they live very controlled lives, carefully excising any problematic elements. Novikov, on the other hand, has had the bad fortune to be publicly associated with a woman whose husband has been arrested as an enemy of the state. The logic may seem tenuous; but that is nonetheless how the system often did work.