I had often thought that if I managed to live through the war I wouldn't expect too much of life. How could one resent disappointment in love if life itself was continuously in doubt? Since Belgorod, terror had overturned all my preconceptions, and the pace of life had been so intense one no longer knew what elements of ordinary life to abandon in order to maintain some semblance of balance. I was still unresigned to the idea of death, but I had already sworn to myself during moments of intense fear that I would exchange anything - fortune, love, even a limb - if I could simply survive.
What happened next? I retain nothing from those terrible minutes except indistinct memories which flash into my mind with sudden brutality, like apparitions, among bursts and scenes and visions that are scarcely imaginable. It is difficult even to even to try to remember moments during which nothing is considered, foreseen, or understood, when there is nothing under a steel helmet but an astonishingly empty head and a pair of eyes which translate nothing more than would the eyes of an animal facing mortal danger. There is nothing but the rhythm of explosions, more or less distant, more or less violent, and the cries of madmen, to be classified later, according to the outcome of the battle, as the cries of heroes or of murderers. And there are the cries of the wounded, of the agonizingly dying, shrieking as they stare at a part of their body reduced to pulp, the cries of men touched by the shock of battle before everybody else, who run in any and every direction, howling like banshees. There are the tragic, unbelievable visions, which carry from one moment of nausea to another: guts splattered across the rubble and sprayed from one dying man to another; tightly riveted machines ripped like the belly of a cow which has just been sliced open, flaming and groaning; trees broken into tiny fragments; gaping windows pouring out torrents of billowing dust, dispersing into oblivion all that remains of a comfortable parlor..