.

When a person dies, they cross over from the realm of freedom to the realm of slavery. Life is freedom, and dying is a gradual denial of freedom.

Consciousness first weakens and then disappears. The life-processes – respiration, the metabolism, the circulation – continue for some time, but an irrevocable move has been made towards slavery; consciousness, the flame of freedom, has died out.

The stars have disappeared from the night sky; the Milky Way has vanished; the sun has gone out; Venus, Mars and Jupiter have been extinguished; millions of leaves have died; the wind and the oceans have faded away; flowers have lost their colour and fragrance; bread has vanished; water has vanished; even the air itself, the sometimes cool, sometimes sultry air, has vanished.

The universe inside a person has ceased to exist. This universe is astonishingly similar to the universe that exists outside people.

It is astonishingly similar to the universes still reflected within the skulls of millions of living people.

But still more astonishing is the fact that this universe had something in it that distinguished the sound of its ocean, the smell of its flowers, the rustle of its leaves, the hues of its granite and the sadness of its autumn fields both from those of every other universe that exists and ever has existed within people, and from those of the universe that exists eternally outside people.

What constitutes the freedom, the soul of an individual life, is its uniqueness.

The reflection of the universe in someone’s consciousness is the foundation of his or her power, but life only becomes happiness, is only endowed with freedom and meaning when someone exists as a whole world that has never been repeated in all eternity.

Only then can they experience the joy of freedom and kindness, finding in others what they have already found in themselves.

Life and Fate

Vasily Grossman (12 December 1905 – 14 September 1964) was a Russian writer and journalist. Born to a Jewish family in Ukraine, then a part of the Russian Empire, Grossman trained as a chemical engineer at Moscow State University, earning the nickname Vasya the Chemist because of his diligence as a student.

Upon graduation he took a job in Stalino (now Donetsk) in the Donets Basin. In the 1930s he changed careers. He began writing full-time and published a number of short stories and several novels. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he was engaged as a war correspondent by the Red Army newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda; he wrote first-hand accounts of the battles of Moscow, Stalingrad, Kursk and Berlin.

Grossman‘s eyewitness reports of a Nazi extermination camp, following the discovery of Treblinka, were among the earliest accounts of a Nazi death camp by a reporter.

While Grossman was never arrested by the Soviet authorities, his two major literary works (Life and Fate and Forever Flowing) were censored during the ensuing Nikita Khrushchev period as unacceptably anti-Soviet, and Grossman himself became in effect a nonperson.

The KGB raided Grossman‘s flat after he had completed Life and Fate, seizing manuscripts, notes and even the ribbon from the typewriter on which the text had been written.

Grossman was told by the Communist Party’s chief ideologist Mikhail Suslov that the book could not be published for two or three hundred years.

At the time of Grossman‘s death from stomach cancer in 1964 these books remained unreleased. Hidden copies were eventually smuggled out of the Soviet Union by a network of dissidents, including Andrei Sakharov and Vladimir Voinovich, and first published in the West, before appearing in the Soviet Union in 1988.