Vasily Grossman · 496 pages
Rating: (2.3K votes)
“We leafed through a series of the [1941 Soviet] Front newspaper. I came across the following phrase in a leading article: 'The much-battered enemy continued his cowardly advance.”
“No one could understand; nor could she explain it herself. This senseless kindness is condemned in the fable about the pilgrim who warmed a snake in his boson. It is the kindness that has mercy on a tarantula that has bitten a child. A mad, blind kindness. People enjoy looking in stories and fables for examples of the danger of this kind of senseless kindness. But one shouldn't be afraid of it. One might just as well be afraid of a freshwater fish carried out by chance into the salty ocean. The harm from time to time occasioned a society, class, race or State by this senseless kindness fades away in the light that emanates from those who are endowed with it. This kindness, this stupid kindness, is what is most truly human in a human being. It is what sets man apart, the highest achievement of his soul. No it says, life is not evil.”
“Grossman, perhaps tiring slightly of journalism, seems to have longed to convey his thoughts and feelings about the war in fictional form. At this stage, when the Soviet Union was fighting for its life, his ideas were very close to that of the Party line. It was only at Stalingrad, a year later, that his view of the Stalinist regime began to change. This outline, may well have formed part of the idea for The People Immortal, his novel written and published the following year...”
“At war a Russian man puts on a white shirt. He may live in sin, but he dies like a saint.”
“It was then that he started his novel The People Immortal, and when I read it later, many of its pages seemed to me very familiar. He found himself as a writer during the war. His pre-war books were nothing more than searching for his theme and language. He was a true internationalist and reproached me frequently for saying “Germans” instead of “Hitler’s men” when describing the atrocities of the occupiers.’ Ehrenburg was persuaded that it was Grossman’s all-embracing world view which made the xenophobic Stalin hate him.”
“Edinolochniks [individual peasant farmers] are whitewashing their khatas [simple Ukrainian houses]. They look at us with a challenge in their eyes: ‘It’s Easter.’ The implication behind this strange remark in autumn was the hint that they were celebrating the arrival of the most joyful moment of the year. Some historians have suggested that the Germans, with black crosses on their vehicles, were seen as bringing Christian liberation to a population oppressed by Soviet atheism. Many Ukrainians did welcome the Germans with bread and salt, and many Ukrainian girls consorted cheerfully with German soldiers. It is hard to gauge the scale of this phenomenon in statistical terms, but it is significant that the Abwehr, the Germany Army intelligence department, recommended that an army of a million Ukrainians should be raised to fight the Red Army. This was firmly rejected by Hitler who was horrified at the suggestion of Slavs fighting in Wehrmacht uniform.”
“We had a really fun time working together on the film. With myself as a pirate. And she as a fair maiden. Running off together in the spirit of love and adventure.”
“You’re very clever, aren’t you, Mr. Neyt Nash?” she said. “I came here to cry on your shoulder, to tell you about my mission against you, to tell you I helped you.”
“I am grateful for all that,” said Nate, not wanting to show how scandalously relieved he was.
Dominika could see it in his face nonetheless. “But you’re not asking me to work with you to avenge Marta, nor to get back at my uncle, or Volontov, or the rest of them, nor to try to reform my beloved country.”
“I don’t have to tell you any of that,” he said.
“Of course you don’t,” she said. “You’re too careful for that.” Nate looked at her without saying anything. “All you do is ask me what I want to do.”
“That’s right,” said Nate.
“Instead, suppose you tell me what you want me to do.”
“I think we should begin working together. Stealing secrets,” Nate said immediately, his heart in his mouth.
“For revenge, for Marta, for Rodina, for—”
“No, none of those,” interrupted Nate. Gable’s words came into his head. Dominika looked at him. His purple halo had spread like the rays of a rising sun. “Because you need it, Dominika Egorova, because it helps you feed that temper of yours, because it’ll be something you own, for once in your life.”
“The change in their attitude was not overt, but I still felt a chill in my heart as true friendship turned to mere politeness. All the same it hurt like hell to be rejected by the people of the city I loved, no matter how polite they were when building the walls between us.”
“Baby, this is who I am. I'm hardwired this way. And if I'm trying to take control over the situation, please understand that I have very solid reasoning for it.”
“For those we are born to speak to we need prepare nothing, the lines are ready, everything is there.”
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