Life and Fate Read Along, Part 3 Chapter 8

Life and Fate Read Along, Part 3 Chapter 8
Photo by Nathan Dumlao / Unsplash

This post, covering Part 3, Chapter 8 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 the Red Army swings its hammers down, Grossman reminds us that these great metaphors of history are also flesh and blood. 

Novikov’s tank corps is facing down the barrel of the gun, waiting for its turn to advance north to continue the push on Paulus’ 6th Army. Their deed — if not their person — will be immortalized forever. And on the morning of, Novikov eats fried eggs and considers which boots to wear. 

This normalcy strikes him as strange as his soldiers prepare to head into battle. “They really were just children,” he thinks as he watches the recruits, “and the whole world had conspired to expose these children to enemy fire … Into battle! Into battle! And to the west men were waiting to blow them up, to cut them apart, to crush them under the treads of their tanks.” (p/ 608)

A reader might notice that this thinking, these concerns about an individual’s life amidst heaping death, runs parallel to Vera’s reaction to the Stalingrad counter-offensive. These soldiers are not simply creatures of war, they are sons and brothers and lovers (and much else) to people near and far.