This vast novel, full of war and suffering, also has moments of levity.  Here we have someone refusing to curtail his right to say whatever he thinks about literature, life and politics, talking and arguing his way into being given a free train ticket.

‘In 1926 Shargorodsky took it into his head to give lectures on the history of Russian literature; he attacked Demyan Byedniy and praised Fet; he took part in the then fashionable discussions about the beauty and truth of life; he declared himself an opponent of every State, declared Marxism a narrow creed, and spoke of the tragic fate of the Russian soul.  In the end he talked and argued himself into another journey at government expense to Tashkent.’


For another expansive speaker, see Henry Miller. 


Source: Life and Fate, Vasily Grossman; trans. Robert Chandler (New York: New York Review Books, 2006 (1985)), p. 131

Photo credit: Matthew Bedford at


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