Stalingrad

From the Vassily Grossman novel:

* When he spoke about the predicament of science in Czechoslovakia, his voice began to quaver. Then he shouted, “It’s impossible to describe, you have to see it with your own eyes! Scientific thought is in fetters. People are afraid of their own shadows. They’re afraid of their fellow workers. Professors are afraid of their students. People’s thoughts, their inner lives, their families and friendships—everything is under fascist control. A man I once studied with—we sat at the same table and worked through eighteen organic chemistry syntheses together, we’ve known each other for thirty years—this friend of mine begged me not to ask him any questions whatsoever. He’s the head of an important faculty, but he behaves like some petty criminal, afraid the police might collar him at any moment. ‘Don’t ask me anything at all,’ he said. ‘It’s not only my colleagues I’m afraid of. I’m afraid of my own voice. I’m afraid of my own thoughts.’ He was petrified I might quote something he’d said and that even if I didn’t mention his name—or his university or even his city—the Gestapo would be able to trace this back to him. You can learn more from simple people—from chambermaids and porters, from drivers and footmen. They think they’re anonymous and so they have less to fear from talking to a foreigner. But intellectuals and scientists have lost all capacity for freedom of thought—they’ve lost the right to call themselves human beings. In science, fascism now rules. Its theories are terrifying, and tomorrow these theories will become practice. They already have become practice. People talk seriously about sterilization and eugenics. One doctor told me that the mentally ill and the tubercular are being murdered. People’s hearts and minds are going dark. Words like freedom , conscience and compassion are being persecuted. People are being forbidden to speak them to children or to write them in private letters. That’s fascism for you—and may it be damned!”

* [At the Moscow zoo:] Just then a fox cub emerged from the bushes. He looked anxious and troubled; his face looked baleful and his tail was sweeping from side to side. His eyes shone, and his thin, moulting flanks were rising and falling very rapidly. He was longing to take part in the game; he would steal forward a few steps and then, overcome by fear, flatten himself against the ground and freeze. All of a sudden he leaped forward and threw himself into the fray with an odd little squeal, playful yet somehow pitiful. The dingo pups knocked him off his feet, and he lay there on one side. His eyes still shone and he was trustfully exposing his belly. Then he let out a piercing cry of reproach—one of the dingo pups must have bitten him too hard. This was the end of him: the dingo pups went for his throat, and the game on the grass turned into a murder. A keeper ran up, plucked the dead creature out of the melee and carried it away; hanging down from the keeper’s hand were a skinny dead tail and a dead snout, with one open eye. The red dingo pups responsible for this murder followed the keeper, their curled tails quivering with intense excitement.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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