Sunday, November 12, 2017

ET: Almanac

Never, before the war, had Viktor thought about the fact that he was a Jew, that his mother was a Jew. Never had his mother spoken to him about it - neither during his childhood, nor during his years as a student. Never while he was at Moscow University had one student, professor or seminar-leader ever mentioned it.

Never before the war, either at the Institute or at the Academy of Sciences had he ever heard conversations about it.

Never had he felt a desire to speak about it to Nadya, to explain to her that her mother was Russian and her father Jewish.

The century of Einstein and Planck was also the entry of Hitler. The Gestapo and the scientific renaissance were children of the same age. How humane the nineteenth century seemed, that century of naïve physics, when compared with the twentieth century, the century that had killed his mother. There is a terrible similarity between the principles of Fascism and those of contemporary physics

Fascism has rejected the concept of a separate individuality, the cncept of 'a man', and operates only with vast aggregates. Contemporary physics speaks of the greater or lesser probability of occurrences within this or that aggregate of individual particles. And are not the terrible mechanics of Fascism founded on the principle of quantum politics, of political probability?

Fascism arrived at the idea of the liquidation of entire strata of the population, of entire nations and racees, on the grounds that there was a greater probability of overt or covert opposition among these groupings than among others: the mechanics of probabilities and of human aggregates.

But no! No! And again no! Fascism will perish for the very reason that it has applied to man the laws applicable to atoms and cobblestones!

Man and Fascism cannot co-exist. If Fascism conquers, man will cease to exist and there will remain only man-like creatures that have undergone an internal transformation. But if man, man who is endowed with reason and kindness, should conquer, then Fascism must perish, and those who have submitted to it will once again become people.

Was not this an admission on his part of the truth of what Chepyzhin had once said? That discussion now seemed infinitely far away, as though decades had passed since that summer evening in Moscow.

it seemed to have been another man - not Viktor at all - who had walked through Trubnaya Square, arguing heatedly and self-confidently.

Mother . . . Marusya . . . Tolya . . .

There were moments when science seemed like a delusion that prevented one from seeing the madness and cruelty of life. It might be that science was not a chance companion, but an ally of this terrible century. How lonely he felt. There was no one he could share his thoughts with. Chepyzhin was far away. Postoev found all this strange and uninteresting. Sokolov had a tendency towards mysticism, towards some strange religious submissiveness before the injustice and cruelty of Caesar.

There were two outstanding scientists who worked in his laboratory - Markov, who carried out the experiments, and the brilliant, debauched Savostyanov. But they'd think he was a psychopath if he started talking like this.

Sometimes he took his mother's letter out of his desk and read through it again.

"Vitya, I'm certain this letter will reach you, even though I'm now behind the German front line, behind the barbed wire of the Jewish ghetto . . . Where can I find the strength, my son . . . ?'

And once more he felt a cold blade against his throat.

Life and Fate - Vasily Grossman

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