Among a million Russian huts you will never find even two that are exactly the same. Everything that lives is unique. It is unimaginable that two people, or two briar roses, should be identical… If you attempt to erase the peculiarities and individuality of life by violence, then life itself must suffocate.

From Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate

These words come from the opening sections of Grossman’s amazing book – I cannot think of a better novel for exploring the horror of the twentieth century. Grossman’s story encompasses the Holocaust, the Gulag and the reality of war. Somehow, amidst all this negativity, he also manages to identify glimpses of light and goodness. In opposition to the mad grandeur of the architects of evil – goodness exists in the humble, the kind and the ordinary.

Life is freedom and freedom is diversity and the refusal to submit to the order defined by the powerful.

As the twenty-first century takes shape we can see that the old battles remain. But today the fight is not so much against the numbing power of the state – rather it is against our own fears, anxieties and prejudices. Can we trust ourselves and each other? Can we support ourselves and each other? Can we accept ourselves and each other?

The enemy of human diversity is ourselves – our own craving for a deathly comfort in conformity.