Take physic, pomp

On Vasily Grossman

I received a great mail today which included probably the most famous lines written by Vasily Grossman. Those lines are bold-typed in the excerpt below (they’re from his work ‘Life and Fate’, which by the way is required reading for all human beings) but on reading them, I remembered that the context of the famous quote is more optimistic than the way’s it’s normally used. So I went to dig it out and here it is:

“I have seen that it is not man who is impotent in the struggle against evil, but the power of evil that is impotent in the struggle against man. The powerlessness of kindness, of senseless kindness, is the secret of its immortality. It can never by conquered. The more stupid, the more senseless, the more helpless it may seem, the vaster it is. Evil is impotent before it. The prophets, religious teachers, reformers, social and political leaders are impotent before it. This dumb, blind love is man’s meaning. Human history is not the battle of good struggling to overcome evil. It is a battle fought by a great evil, struggling to crush a small kernel of human kindness. But if what is human in human beings has not been destroyed even now, then evil will never conquer.

That’s some prose, but I hope you’ll see that by taking those famed bold-typed lines and quoting them without the rest, the real message Grossman wanted to get across is lost. And that message is all the more remarkable if you check out the history of the man who wrote them. Thank you for writing DE, you made my day.

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