During the Great Patriotic War, the writer as an artilleryman went a long way from Stalingrad to Czechoslovakia. Among Yuri Bondarev’s books on the war, “Hot Snow” occupies a special place, opening up new approaches to solving moral and psychological problems posed in his first novels – “Battalions Ask for Fire” and “The Last Salvoes.” These three books on war are a holistic and developing world that has reached the greatest completeness and imaginative power in the “Hot Snow”.
The events of the novel “Hot Snow” unfold under Stalingrad, south of the blockade of the 6th Army of General Paulus, by the Soviet troops, in the cold December 1942, when one of our armies held back the panzer divisions of Field Marshal Manstein in the Volga steppe, who tried to break through the corridor to the Paulus army and withdraw it from the environment. The success or failure of this operation largely depended on the outcome of the battle on the Volga and, perhaps, even the timing of the end of the war itself. The time of the novel is limited to only a few days, during which the heroes of Yuri Bondarev selflessly defend a tiny patch of earth from German tanks.
In the “Hot Snow” time is compressed even denser than in the story “Battalions ask for fire.” “Hot snow” is a short march of General Bessonov unloaded from the echelons of the army and a battle that has decided so much in the fate of the country; it’s a cold frosty dawn, two days and two endless December nights. Without lyrical digressions, as if the author’s breath was intercepted from constant tension, the novel “Hot Snow” differs by directness, direct connection of the plot with the true events of the Great Patriotic War, with one of its decisive moments. The life and death of the heroes of the novel, their fates themselves are illuminated by the alarming light of a true story, as a result of which everything acquires special weight, significance.
In the novel, the battery of Drozdovsky absorbs almost all the reader’s attention, the action is concentrated primarily around a small number of characters. Kuznetsov, Ukhanov, Rubin and their comrades are a particle of a great army, they are a people, a people insofar as the typed personality of the hero expresses the spiritual and moral traits of the people.
In the “Hot Snow”, the image of a people who has risen to war arises before us in the fullness of expression that Yury Bondarev had never before experienced, in the richness and diversity of characters, and at the same time in integrity. This image is not exhausted either by the figures of young lieutenants-the commanders of artillery platoons, or by the colorful figures of those traditionally considered to be people of the people-such as the slightly cowardly Chibisov, calm and experienced gunner Evstigneev, or the straightforward and rugged Rubin; nor by senior officers, such as division commander Colonel Deyev or army commander General Bessonov. Only all together, for all the difference in rank and rank, they constitute the image of the fighting people. The strength and novelty of the novel lies in the fact that unity is achieved as if by itself, captured without much effort by the author – a living,
The death of heroes on the eve of victory, the criminal inevitability of death contains a high tragedy and provokes a protest against the brutality of the war and the forces that unleashed it. The heroes of “Hot Snow” are dying – the battery sanistrior Zoya Yelagina, the shy driver Sergunenkov, the member of the Vesnin Military Council, Kasymov is dying and many others… And in all these deaths, the war is to blame. Let the serenity of Sergunenkov be guilty and the heartlessness of Lieutenant Drozdovsky, even though Zoya is partly responsible for his death, but no matter how great is Drozdovsky’s fault, they are primarily victims of war.
The novel expresses an understanding of death – as a violation of higher justice and harmony. Let’s remember how Kuznetsov looks at the murdered Kasymov: “Now under the head of Kasymov lay a shell box, and his youthful, uncompromising face, recently alive, swarthy, which had become a deathly white, thinned eerie beauty of death, looked in amazement with wet-cherry half-opened eyes on his chest, on the torn jacket, torn to shreds, and excised, just as after death he did not comprehend how it killed him and why he could not stand up to the sight. “
Kuznetsov feels even more keenly the irreversibility of losing the Sergunenkov driving. After all, the mechanism of his death is disclosed here. Kuznetsov proved powerless to witness how Drozdovsky sent Sergunenkov to his death, and he, Kuznetsov, already knows that he will forever curse himself for what he saw, was present, and could not change anything.
In the “Hot Snow”, with all the tension of events, everything human in people, their characters do not live apart from the war, but are interconnected with it, constantly under its fire, when it seems that they can not raise their heads. Usually the chronicle of battles can be retold separately from the individuality of its participants – a battle in “Hot Snow” can not be retold otherwise than through the fate and the characters of people.
The past of the characters in the novel is significant and weighty.... In some, it is almost cloudless, in others it is so complex and dramatic that the former drama does not remain behind, pushed aside by war, but accompanies a man in the battle southwest of Stalingrad. Events of the past determined the military fate of Ukhanov: a gifted, energetic officer who would command the battery, but he was only a sergeant. Ukhanov’s stern, rebellious character also determines his movement within the novel. The past troubles of Chibisov, who almost broke him, responded with fear and determined much in his behavior. One way or another, Zoya Elagina, Kasymov, Sergunenkov and the unsociable Rubin slip past in the novel, whose bravery and loyalty to the soldier’s debt we will be able to appreciate only towards the end of the novel.
Especially important in the novel is the past of General Bessonov. The thought of a son caught in German captivity makes his position both at the rate and at the front difficult. And when the fascist leaflet, informing that Bessonov’s son was taken prisoner, gets into counterintelligence of the front in the hands of Lieutenant-Colonel Aspen, it seems that there was a threat to Bessonov’s service.
Perhaps the most mysterious of the world of human relations in the novel is the love that arises between Kuznetsov and Zoya. The war, its cruelty and blood, its terms, overturning the usual notion of time – it was she who contributed to such a rapid development of this love. After all, this feeling developed in those short hours of march and battle, when there is no time for reflection and analysis of their feelings. And all this begins with the quiet, incomprehensible jealousy of Kuznetsov to the relationship between Zoe and Drozdovsky. And soon – so little time passes – Kuznetsov already bitterly mourns the deceased Zoya, and it is from these lines that the title of the novel is taken, when Kuznetsov wiped his face wet from tears, “the snow on the sleeve of the quilted jacket was hot from his tears.”
Deceived at first in Lieutenant Drozdovsky, the best cadet then, Zoya throughout the whole novel, reveals to us as a moral person, whole, ready for self-sacrifice, able to embrace with his heart the pain and suffering of many. It seems to go through many trials, from intrusive interest to gross rejection. But her kindness, her patience and sympathy gets at all, she is truly a sister to the soldiers. Zoya’s image somehow imperceptibly filled the atmosphere of the book, its main events, its harsh, brutal reality with a feminine beginning, caress and tenderness.
One of the most important conflicts in the novel is the conflict between Kuznetsov and Drozdovsky. This conflict is given a lot of place, it is exposed very sharply and can be easily traced from beginning to end. Initially, tension, which goes back to the prehistory of the novel; disagreement of characters, manners, temperaments, even the style of speech: it is difficult for Kuznetsov, soft, thoughtful, to take Drozdovsky’s abrupt, commandable, indisputable speech. Long hours of battle, the senseless death of Sergunenkov, the deathly wound of Zoe, in which Drozdovsky is partly responsible, all this forms a gap between the two young officers, the moral incompatibility of their existence.
In the finale, this chasm is even more pronounced: the four artillerymen who survived consecrate the orders just received in a soldier’s bowler, and the sip that each of them will make is first and foremost a mouthful of commemoration-there is bitterness and sorrow in it. The Order received and Drozdovsky, because for Bessonov, who awarded him – he survived, the wounded commander of a standing battery, the general does not know about Drozdovsky’s grave wine and most likely will never know. This is also the reality of war. But it is not without reason that the writer leaves Drozdovsky away from the assembled soldiers at the pot.
The ethical, philosophical thought of the novel, as well as its emotional tension, reaches its greatest height in the finale, when Bessonov and Kuznetsov unexpectedly converge. This rapprochement without close proximity: Bessonov awarded his officer on a par with others and moved on. For him, Kuznetsov is just one of those who died at the turn of the Myshkov River. Their closeness is more sublime: it is the closeness of thought, spirit, and a view of life. For example, shocked by the death of Vesnin, Bessonov blames himself for the fact that because of his lack of security and suspicion, he prevented friendly relations between them. Or Kuznetsov, who could not help the dying Chubarikov’s calculation, which was tormented by his eyes, tormented by the piercing thought that all this “seemed to have happened because he did not have time to get close to them,
Divided by disproportionate duties, Lieutenant Kuznetsov and army commander General Bessonov are moving towards a single goal – not only military but also spiritual. Suspecting nothing of each other’s thoughts, they think about the same thing and in the same direction they seek the truth. Both of them demandingly ask themselves about the purpose of life and about the conformity of their actions and aspirations with it. They are separated by age and related, like father and son, or even as brother and brother, love of the Motherland and belonging to the people and to humanity in the highest sense of these words.