"Human history is not the battle of good struggling to overcome evil. It is a battle fought by a great evil struggling to crush a small kernel of human kindness. But if what is human in human beings has not been destroyed even now, then evil will never conquer." (from "Life and Fate")
"Life and Fate," Vasilii Grossman's 1960 novel focuses on World War II's Battle of Stalingrad as the invading Germans besiege the Soviets.
While the Soviet characters fight against Fascist enemies, Grossman juxtaposes both governments’ ability to restrict or take away an individual’s freedom. Grossman’s indictment wasn’t limited to direct restrictions imposed on man but included the perversion of man’s spirit. Ideologies or movements will always meet resistance, according to Grossman, when they attempt to crush “what is human in human beings” and he provides many moving examples of those struggles. He also shows people losing some of those struggles—after all, weakness is part of what makes us human, too.
Grossman celebrates the Soviet victory in Stalingrad unironically as a triumph of freedom over oppression. Yet he foreshadows later Soviet crackdowns on freedom in his appraisal of communism's similarities with fascism. The bottom line for Grossman lies in our humanity and our ability to flourish under freedom, without which we experience spiritual entropy.
I give the book my highest recommendation—it is a difficult book and not just for its length or number of characters. The subject matter can be dark, but Grossman’s constant emphasis on hope buoys the book and the reader.
The seven page essay that is chapter 15 in part 2 on the nature of goodness is worth 1000 prices of admission!
Who says intense suffering can not be good for the soul?
Keep the list of characters at hand and enjoy an epic read!
war and peace for the 2nd world war generation. monumental with a cast of characters from all walks of life. brilliantly written and haunting. more people do need to know about this book. if you enjoy this you should pick up his non fiction writings about the 2nd world war.
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