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Life and Fate
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Archive > May and June 2014: Life and Fate Part II

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message 1: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
Please use the thread below to comment on Life and Fate : Part II (Page 323 to 611).

While you should feel free to post here at any time, we have put together a general reading schedule, focusing on this part between May 22 and June 10.


Chuck LoPresti | 17 comments Chapter 15 on the nature of "good" is awesome stuff. "Be good" always had an insidious ring to me, now it's a threnody. Good is teleological, kindness is aleatory...seems to make clear sense in Grossman's terms. It's a common theme in Russian books I guess, the influence of the east. Grin's writing works like this as well...never too far from a consciousness of Buddhist though.


message 3: by Jonathan (last edited Jun 06, 2014 12:35PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jonathan | 232 comments Chuck wrote: "Chapter 15 on the nature of "good" is awesome stuff. "Be good" always had an insidious ring to me, now it's a threnody. Good is teleological, kindness is aleatory...seems to make clear sense in ..."

I just read it today. As Ch. 14 ends with '...Mostovskoy began to peruse Ikonnikov's scribblings' I'm guessing that the bulk of chapter 15 is actually Ikonnikov's scribblings.

I find it amusing that both Liss, the Nazi interrogator and Mostovskoy dismiss the writing and the author as 'unhinged'.

I liked the quote:
But, as I lost faith in good, I began to lose faith even in kindness. It seemed as beautiful and powerful as dew. What use was it if it was not contagious?



Chuck LoPresti | 17 comments And as expected, upon conclusion of David I ran in the house and hugged my children. As expected, Grossman saved his most poetic, musical and thus Platonov-like prose for this most chilling section. He walks that line between stoic narrator and passionate survivor with great tact.


Jonathan | 232 comments Chuck wrote: "And as expected, upon conclusion of David I ran in the house and hugged my children. As expected, Grossman saved his most poetic, musical and thus Platonov-like prose for this most chilling sectio..."

I agree that this is a chilling section, Chuck, for obvious reasons. This is where I really appreciate Grossman's sparse style and it makes it more chilling. I keep reading this little section, from Chapter 47, which sent chills down my spine when I read it:
Rebekka Bukhman, now walking at Sofya's side, gave a sudden scream - the scream of someone who is being turned into ashes.
A man with a length of hosepipe was standing beside the entrance to the gas chamber. He wore a brown shirt with a zip-fastener and short sleeves. It was seeing his childish, mindless, drunken smile that had caused Rebekka Bukhman to let out that terrible scream.
His eyes slid over Sofya Levington's face. There he was; they had met at last!
I think it's this moment that is most horrific. She has looked into the calm, mundane face of the person who is going to murder her.


Jonathan | 232 comments Chapters 28-30 were particularly powerful and sickening. In these chapters Grossman recounts the almost mundane tasks that Liss has to carry out constructing and equipping the new gas chamber...it's just like any other construction site.

Liss is peeved that Eichmann is coming to visit rather than meeting in Berlin and this leads to the sickening part where they have an impromptu meal in the middle of the gas chamber. I wonder if this really happened or was it an invention by Grossman?


Seana | 407 comments Although the scenes of the people being taken to the gas chambers were effective and moving, at this point I think we know this story too well to be really surprised by it. What strikes me is that Grossman was able to take it in and then tell the story as early as he did. I think even now we know this monstrosity happened and yet can't really live our lives as if we knew it, so it is amazing to me that Grossman was able to empathize into the plight of these doomed people as well as he did. The moment that actually affected me most was when David throws the cocoon away from him, giving it a chance at life that he won't have.


Jonathan | 232 comments I realised when I was reading Part Two that there aren't many realistic depictions of scientists in literature that depict their daily lives. They tend to either be mad scientists, weird or battling with governments/secret agents over something really important. Ok, Viktor is struggling with the Soviet system but it's a realistic one of funding, departmental politics and questionnaires-from-hell.

I loved chapter 53 when Viktor is actually filling out the questionnaire. Some of the questions are just banal, others are sinister. But even the banal ones end up having a sinister edge...after all, just why are they asking that? How will they interpret his answers? Viktor starts to even doubt his sex, well not quite but he does ask himself 'what kind of man am I?'...brilliant.

It's in this section that Viktor wonders just how similar the Soviet's interest in the ancestral heritage of each citizen compares with the Nazi's obsession over racial purity.
One thing I am certain of: it's terrible to kill someone simply because he's a Jew. They're people like any others - good, bad, gifted, stupid, stolid, cheerful, kind, sensitive, greedy...Hitler says none of that matters - all that matters is that they're Jewish. And I protest with my whole being. But then we have the same principle: what matters is whether or not you're the son of an aristocrat, the son of a merchant, the son of a kulak; and whether you're good-natured, wicked, gifted, kind, stupid, happy, is neither here nor there.
No wonder the book was confiscated by the authorities.


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