What makes us human?  Simple kindness is a key element according to Grossman.  It depends partly on how you define ‘human’ of course, whether to describe a particular species, or in the sense that is redolent with tenderness, vulnerability, feeling, sensitivity.

‘This kindness, this stupid kindness, is what is most truly human in a human being.  It is what sets man apart, the highest achievement of his soul.  No, it says, life is not evil!’

This is a quietly, persistently, recurrent theme in Grossman’s writing.  See also: ‘The kernel of human kindness’ and ‘In praise of senseless kindness’.

Source: Life and Fate, Vasily Grossman; trans. Robert Chandler (New York: New York Review Books, 2006 (1985)), p. 409

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