“What a wonderful power and clarity there is in speaking one’s mind. What a terrible price people paid for a few bold words.”
When I did a history evening course a couple of years ago the tutor kept talking about his aim to do a book about what it was really like for normal people to live under Stalin’s rule. He wanted to try and capture the fear of being denounced, the attraction of doing it and also try to paint a picture of what life was like – was it all prison camps and interrogations or was there some normal living going on as well? I’m sure he has read Life and Fate but if not there are some interesting passages around the pages 256 – 275 mark where people dangerously express their views.
Grossman manages to evoke a sense of real fear and danger just from sharing your opinion or views not just on politics but everything including literature.
Bullet points between pages 256 – 340
* Viktor shares a discussion with his scientific friends that covers the war, the political system and literature but some come close to the edge of what is allowed and as a result there is an argument as the host tries to prove his loyalty to the party
* One suggestion is made to Viktor as they leave by another guest that the most outspoken guest has survived the purges almost untouched and as a result had to be protected as an informer adding to the feeling of suspicion
* Then the focus moves back to the front picking up the story of Darensky and his artillery unit that is being sent into a particularly unattractive sector to try and unsettle the Germans and then Novikov the tank commander remerges and catches up with his lost love who turns out to be Viktor’s sister in law who had such problems with her passport earlier in the book
* Viktor despite being depressed manages to crack the scientific formula he has been wrestling with but as he shares his excitement he is only met with indifference and jealousy and is depressed by his colleague and wife
* Novikov is suffering Getmanov the political instructor who pokes around in his private life but when the tank commander finally loses control and speaks his mind – as Grossman has alreafy pointed out – an incredibly dangerous thing to do he wins the respect from the political commissar rather than his wrath