Another plea by Grossman for uncomplicated, unplanned and even unwitnessed kindnesses, as opposed to those commandeered by ideologies.

Whatever your beliefs, may you give and receive such random acts of kindness in equal measure.

‘The private kindness of one individual towards another; a petty, thoughtless kindness; an unwitnessed kindness.  Something we could call senseless kindness.  A kindness outside any system of social or religious good. But if we think about it, we realize that this private, senseless, incidental kindness is in fact eternal.  It is extended to everything living, even a mouse, even to a bent branch that a man straightens as he walks by.’

This is a quietly persistent theme in Grossman, see also: ‘Kindness maketh man’ and ‘The kernel of human kindness’.  And another version in George Eliot’s Middlemarch.

Source: Life and Fate, Vasily Grossman; trans. Robert Chandler (New York: New York Review Books, 2006 (1985)), p. 408

Photo credit: Janko Ferlic at


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