The Reaper. Kazimir Malevich. Oil on canvas. In the Nizhny Novgorod State Museum of Fine Arts

“What would we do without you, Vorobeyev?” asked Captain Kuriczamatin, and he was not joking. Lieutenant Vorobeyev could not shoot or read a map or remember the signal codes; he spoke to his superiors just as he spoke to the men and neither really understood him; he was active and excitable like a man with a fever. The war had lifted him from a coffee house in St Petersburg, dropped him into the Second Army and made him a lieutenant because he was an educated man, but it had not made him a soldier. Nevertheless: he was brave, and even in our current fatal position his cheerfulness never faded.

Read on …

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