Grossman’s war writing is interlaced with subtle and not so subtle pleas for individual kindness, small, humble, random, spontaneous, and free of corrupting ideological pieties. Here he comments on the habit people in war acquire for suffering, whether they are inflicting it or subjected to it. ¬†And, in contrast, how they can be surprised and even shaken by signals of kindness and love.

May we never experience such a shocking inversion of what shocks us.

‘No one during this terrible time was moved by blood, suffering, and death; what surprised and shook people was kindness and love.’

 

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. 104

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