The 800 pages of Grossman’s splendid Life and Fate is occasionally interlarded with heartfelt asides by the author, including pleas for simple, spontaneous kindness as opposed to state-sponsored, ideologically gift-wrapped ‘good’ with a capital ‘G’.  Sometimes he speaks directly, stepping into his own narrative; other times he puts these beliefs in the mouth of a character.

‘The ideas of this dirty, ragged old man were a strange hotchpotch. He professed a belief in an absurd theory of morality that – in his own words – ‘transcended class’.  ‘Where acts of violence are committed,’ he explained to Mostovskoy, ‘sorrow reigns and blood must flow.  I saw the sufferings of the peasantry with my own eyes – and yet collectivization was carried out in the name of Good.  I don’t believe in your “Good”.  I believe in human kindness.’’

Source: Life and Fate, Vasily Grossman; trans. Robert Chandler (New York: New York Review Books, 2006 (1985)), p. 29

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