Friday, August 29, 2014

`The Depth of Unchecked Evil'

Thanks to Cynthia Haven we have Helen Pinkerton’s thoughts on Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate. Helen’s reactions to the novel recall my own: 

“I finished it recently and found it possibly the greatest novel I have ever read. He creates a world – actually, two worlds, the Russian and the German – of believable human characters, who try to live worthy lives under a totalitarian government that is structured to destroy their humanity by bringing out the worst in each of them. Chapter after chapter unfolds individual dramas, wherein moral choices are made that are lived with and often died by.” 

Earlier this month Helen wrote in an email: 

“I have been reading the novel through in the last few months. I am very near the end, where Victor Schtrum is about to find out what will happen to him for his `mistakes.’ Grossman’s portraits of human and inhuman persons living in a totalitarian state are extraordinarily authentic and moving. I have to say that it is one of the finest novels I have ever read. I read War and Peace when I was in my teens, so I don’t remember it very well. But my impression is that Grossman’s novel is more important to me, because the events that are his subject took place in my life-time and his insights into the moral dilemmas and tragic choices of Russians, Germans, Tartars, Ukrainians, and the one Italian priest help me to understand the importance of knowing what happened to the human soul in those terrible years in order to understand the depth of unchecked evil in our contemporary and future society, world-wide.”

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