Listening time: under 3 minutes

Grossman writes with great empathy of animals and their experiences. Here an Italian mule, requisitioned to the war effort and finding itself transported to a boundless Russian plain, is hitched up to a cart alongside a mare.

The two animals find in each other a moment of comfort and tenderness. Note his reference to ‘life and fate’, a recurring theme in his work, as well as the title of a monumental novel. From a superb collection of his stories to be reviewed here.

Photo credit: WFlore at pixabay

WritingRedux Podcast

Quotation: Vasily Grossman - 'The Road'

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‘The train of carts stopped. The driver unharnessed the mule and the mare, and they ate together and drank water from the same bucket. The mare went up to the mule and laid her head on his neck. Her soft, gently moving lips touched his ear and he looked trustfully into the sad eyes of this collective-farm mare, and his breath mingled with her breath, which felt warm and kind …

Through their warm breath and their weary eyes, Giu the mule and the mare from Vologda spoke clearly to each other of their life and fate, and there was something charming and wonderful about these trustful, affectionate beings standing beside each other on the wartime plain, under the grey winter sky.

“The donkey, I mean the mule, seems to have turned quite Russian,” one of the drivers said with a laugh.

“No, look – they’re both of them weeping,” said another driver.

And it was true; they were weeping.’


Source: Vasily Grossman, ‘The Road’, The Road: Stories, Journalism, and Essays, trans. Robert and Elizabeth Chandler with Olga Mukovnikova, afterword Fyodor Guber (New York: New York Review Books, 2010), pp. 233-234


  1. Liisa Välikangas

    May I weep with you too? The description of two sentient animals leaning on each other, to share their life’s hardship, is the most touching and healing quote I have heard for a long time. Thank you, Beatrice and Vasily.

    • beatriceotto

      Thank you, Liisa, for such a sensitive response. I found the quotation moving but sometimes I share these things not knowing if anyone else will like them, or even notice them. It’s therefore great to get such reactions. And Grossman writes with great tenderness about animals. Stay well and all best, Beatrice

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