This 800 page riveting novel is in some senses one giant plea for simple, spontaneous, sincere kindness towards and between individuals. Not as an ideology, but as a day to day modus operandi. If you read Grossman, you will be more on your guard against ideologies, no matter how benign they appear – or claim – to be.
‘Chekhov said: let’s put God – and all these grand progressive ideas – to one side. Let’s begin with man; let’s be kind and attentive to the individual man – whether he’s a bishop, a peasant, an industrial magnate, a convict in the Sakhalin Islands or a waiter in a restaurant. Let’s begin with respect, compassion and love for the individual – or we’ll never get anywhere.’
Source: Life and Fate, Vasily Grossman; trans. Robert Chandler (New York: New York Review Books, 2006 (1985)), p. 283
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