This describes the reading philosophy of a Jewish village school teacher in Russia during the war.  One of Vasily Grossman’s magnficent short stories, he depicts a humble, brilliant man whose power of thought isn’t trampled by the horrors unfolding. Boris Isaakovich Rosenthal is a superb human being, as further quotations about him will demonstrate.

I loved his passion for books which allowed him to join with writers in celebrating, justifying, blaming and even cursing ourselves on this splendid earth.

‘He loved books – and books were not a barrier between him and life. His God was Life. And he learned about this God – a living, earthly, sinful God – by reading historians and philosophers, by reading the works of both greater and lesser writers. All of them, as best they could, celebrated, justified, blamed, and cursed Man on this splendid earth.’

 

Source: Vasily Grossman, ‘The Old Teacher’, The Road: Stories, Journalism, and Essays, trans. Robert and Elizabeth Chandler with Olga Mukovnikova, afterword Fyodor Guber (New York: New York Review Books, 2010), p. 85

Photo credit: jplenio at pixabay

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