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Life and Fate
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Archive > May and June 2014: Life and Fate (General/Biography)

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New York Review Books | 212 comments Mod
Hi Everyone,

This is where we will be discussing the NYRB Classics Goodreads Book Club pick, Vasily Grossman's novel Life and Fate, for the months of May and June. We are spreading this discussion over two months since the book as rather long, clocking in at just under 900 pages.

Looking forward to this discussion, book-clubbers.


message 2: by David (last edited May 11, 2014 05:12AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

David Lentz (wordsworthgreenwich) | 1 comments “I have seen that it is not man who is impotent in the struggle against evil, but the power of evil that is impotent in the struggle against man. The powerlessness of kindness, of senseless kindness, is the secret of its immortality. It can never be conquered. The more stupid, the more senseless, the more helpless it may seem, the vaster it is. Evil is impotent before it. The prophets, religious teachers, reformers, social and political leaders are impotent before it. This dumb, blind love is man’s meaning. 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.”
― Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate

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Sunjay (sunjayc) | 2 comments Wish I had a copy the book still to read. Problem is, every time I buy another copy I find myself giving it to another friend and pleading for them to read it! I struggle to find a less cliched way to say it, but this book completely changed my outlook on life, and I really hope as many people as possible can read it. Don't let the length of the book nor the complex Russian names scare you off...

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Cynthia Dunn | 71 comments I've started it this very minute! Really looking forward to it.

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Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
Out of curiosity, how do people think we should go about reading and discussing this. Should we set up a kind of schedule? Would that make people feel they can discuss those sections better? Any ideas?

Jonathan | 232 comments Trevor wrote: "Out of curiosity, how do people think we should go about reading and discussing this. Should we set up a kind of schedule? Would that make people feel they can discuss those sections better? Any id..."

I haven't actually started yet but plan to soon. I like the idea of the read having some sort of schedule, so that even if people read at different times it does mean that relevant notes can appear together rather than all together.

I think either a weekly schedule from Mon-Sun of approx 100 pages or split the whole book into 3x300 pages over approx. three week periods would work.

I haven't got a copy yet so I don't know whether the book itself has any natural break points.

message 7: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
I don't have a copy yet either, Jonathan. If someone has a copy, please let us know.

I agree that it doesn't mean people have to stick with the schedule, but if we can break the discussion down a bit it might encourage discussion -- maybe :-) .

Others, please share your thoughts.

message 8: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
Happy to get home and find my copy in the mail. It does divide nicely into three parts:

Part 1: intro to 322

Part 2: 323 to 611

Part 3: 613 to 871

message 9: by L (last edited May 07, 2014 07:44AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

L Fleisig | 2 comments Trevor wrote: "Out of curiosity, how do people think we should go about reading and discussing this. Should we set up a kind of schedule? Would that make people feel they can discuss those sections better? Any id..."

Hi Trevor,
good question. I think breaking it into three parts as suggested is a good idea. Just a couple of things in addition. I'm new to this so forgive me if this is something generally understood when a book is discussed.

I wonder about a couple of paralel pathss of discussion as we read the book. The first would be some discussion about Grossman's life generally and in particular the story of how the book was "arrested", the attempt to destroy all the copies and its eventual publication in the west. Also, with regard to Grossman's life, when the German invasion began I think he had an opportunity to move his mother out of their town, Berdichev. He didn't push it, she died during the occupation and Grossman's feelings of guilt about this played itself out in one of the more remarkable sections of Life and Fate. In addition, I think his war years as a reporter for Red Star also had a big impact on the tone and substance of Life and Fate.

If these types of discussions occur naturally then appologies in advance for stating the obviouus!

message 10: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
Thanks, L. And you're not out of line at all! This is such an ambitious group read that I think we don't know exactly how to approach it.

What do people want?

Do you want three separate threads? One for, say, the intro materials and Part I (and information like the kind L. mentioned -- though I imagine that will also get peppered into other sections); one for Part II and one for Part III/wrap-up? Or do we want to just kind of put a general schedule together and let it flow naturally in this one thread?

Sorry to hamper any discussion with these preliminaries :-) . But please put in your two-cents' worth.

Jonathan | 232 comments It looks like the book lends itself naturally to a three-way split. And then as L has suggested it may be worth having some discussion threads on biographical and/or historical aspects.

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Lois (literanarchy) | 113 comments Three discussion threads would be a great idea - that way it won't be as important for people to stick to a time-based schedule, as the discussion for the relevant parts would be divided up appropriately, avoiding unwanted backtracks and spoilers. I'm not fussed about a separate thread for biography etc. as I would expect that to come through the entirety, but certainly happy to go with the flow!

Roger | 16 comments I'm starting the novel tomorrow and I think three separate threads would be ideal. I tend to read quickly so weekly schedules of shorter sections sometime lose me.

message 14: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
Okay -- I'll set them up now. If they need tweaking, please let me know. I'll make this one just the general comments/bio thread.

message 15: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
Here are the new threads (all should be visible in the main "Book Club Discussions" folder):

-May 1 to May 21: Part I
-May 22 to June 10: Part II
-June 11 to June 30: Part III

If these dates, which I just pulled out of thin air, don't sound right, please just let me know and we'll fix them.

Also, despite the dates, people should feel free to read at their own pace. The dates are there to facilitate group discussion, but are not there to limit.

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Lois (literanarchy) | 113 comments Sounds perfect to me - thanks Trevor!

message 17: by L (new) - rated it 5 stars

L Fleisig | 2 comments Okay then . I read Life and Fate almost 10 years ago and I think I will dig it out and start again. This was the first book of Grossman's that I've read so it might be interesting for me to see what my reading his other works does to my understanding of it.

Jonathan | 232 comments After much faffing about I think I'm finally in a position to start this book. How are others doing?

Roger | 16 comments According to my kindle I'm 23% in. I should finish Part One in a couple of days. I'm having trouble with the names and the nicknames (as expected) and there are a lot of characters, but the story lines are so compelling it doesn't seem to matter.

Jonathan | 232 comments Sounds promising Roger. I've experienced the issues with multiple Russian names before, so hopefully I'm prepared for that.

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