Life and Fate Read Along, Part 3 Chapter 9

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.

In the moments before the charge, the artillery pounds the Romanian positions. Novikov watches, his blood beating the rhythm of his heart onto his eardrums. The terrible contradictions of war are upon him during this high-explosive pummeling. 

“How joyful, how splendid, to fight in a battle that would decide the fate of your motherland. How appalling, how terrifying to stand up and face death, to run towards death rather than away from it. How terrible to die young…” (p. 610)

These thoughts sharpen when the artillery ceases and some Romanian emplacements begin to return fire, turning especially maudlin as Novikov considers how many young men will die if he charges now. Getmanov is yelling in his ear to give the order. All those nearby watch them. 

Novikov does not give the order. He wants to wait for a second barrage to silence those remaining gunnery crews. 

This decision will not be entered into the historical record, he knows. It will not be spoken of favorably at higher levels. It will not get him any closer to a coveted award.