We now return to Nikolai Rostov (in case you’ve forgotten, son of Count and Countess Rostov, brother to Natasha, Vera, Petya, and rather enamoured cousin to Sonya . . .), and we see him on the battlefield.

Quite unlike Andrei, who is quite caught up in the seriousness of it all, Nikolai seems to be more in it for the fun of it and “the honour”, at this stage.  Now, I don’t know about you, but the events of these two chapters were somewhat confusing – or at least  the two different translations that I consulted made it seem that way (the Garnett and the Maude).

So tell me – is this what you think happened?  Nikolai is counting his superior officer Denisov’s money (from his gambling . . .), when in walks Telyanin, the officer, who steals the money.  Rostov realises this, and then goes to find Telyanin.  However, when Telyanin looks panicked and says that he has a poor father and mother, Nikolai gives him the money and says keep it.  That’s the end of chapter 4.

Where it gets confusing is chapter 5.  Later that day, Denisov and another officer are giving Nikolai a lambasting for telling the commanding officer about the theft.  For the honour of the regiment, he should stay silent, rather than admit that there is a thief.

But what I don’t get is why did Nikolai let Telyanin keep the money if he was going to dob him in?

Are there any Tolstoy scholars out there who might be able to shed light on what’s happening?  I would be ever so grateful.

In the meantime, I’ve added Denisov to the MindMap, because he will go on to become a more major character as time goes on.  (It helps to keep track of all these other characters as well, but I think to keep the MindMap manageable, I’ll only stick on the really, really major ones.)

Either way, all this confusion comes to an end, when Zherkov, now reduced to the regiments for making fun of loser Austraian (I wonder if he was demoted by Andrei Bolkonsky?) arrives to let them know that, regardless of who stole from whom – they’re being marched into battle . . . And so it begins . . .

10 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 2.4 & 2.5 – Stealing and Honour

  1. Well, I have just now discovered your blog. In fact, I’m quite new to the world of blogging, so chanes are that I am not even doing this bit right. But, in any event, I had to respond to a War and Peace blog. I bought the book myself about four years ago and, since then, it has slowly but surely consumed me. It inspired me to learn Russian, so that I could read it in the oiginal language; I now read mostly Russian literature, listen mostly to Russian music, cook mostly Russia food, and speak to my dogs only in Russian. War and Peace is an amazing achievement, and an amazing read. There is hardly an facet of humanity that it does not cover. I will follow you blog with great interest.

  2. Great to have a fellow W&P enthusiast on board. I can’t say it drove me to learn Russian, but it certainly is a masterpiece of storytelling.

    Hope to see you around in future days/weeks/months as we read it.

  3. I’m looking forward to fopllowing your journey, and delving back into this wonderful text myself, too. I know of no one who can capture things, describe them in a way that makes you feel that you are there, experiencing it, like Tolstoy.

    I’m not sure if your blog has yet incited a discussion/debate about the various translations – so I’m sorry if it has – but migh I suggest, if you get the chance, to read the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation. I really do think it is by far the best, and the most accurate in capturing Tolstoy’s very unique style.

  4. Hi Ian,

    I haven’t got into a debate about translation yet, no. I have heard very good things about the P/V translation, and I would love to read it one day.

    However, in Australia, it hasn’t really hit the shelves. The last time I read it (which was the first time), I read the Maude translation, which I quite enjoyed, especially because they retained little French phrases here and there and translated them, which gave more of a feel of the French. (I understand the P/V translation actually has all the French in it as per the original manuscript, which I’d really love – it seems to me that it would be a far more fascinating experience.)

    I’m currently reading two versions at the same time. One is a translation by Constance Garnett that is not really all that great as a translation, but it comes in four little hardbound volumes that are a nice compact size for reading on the train. So it’s my main one.

    A few friends of mine reading this have the Rosemary Edmonds translation, which I managed to pick up for them for about $5 a copy, because it’s now out of print as the Penguin translation.

    And I’m also reading the Maude translation again at the same time, because it’s available relatively cheaply here (only $5.95 for a good-quality paperback edition). By far, I prefer the Maude, out of those two, with the Edmonds falling somewhere in the middle. Certainly, the Maude is the clearest, and it retains a lot of the quirks that I love (such as Denisov’s inability to pronounce r’s – “Wostov!”).

    One day I will go and read the P/V.

    I should also say on the note of translations, that I apologise for my woefully inconsistent spelling of the Russian names. Because I’ve been reading two versions, I’ve been haphazardly jumping between the spellings of the two, depending on which I preferred. (I didn’t realise quite how bad it was until recently.) But as long as you can tell who I’m talking about, that will do.

  5. Sorry to hog the blog, so to speak – but I have only just gotten around to thinking about your actual question: why Nikolai in one chapter gives the money to Telyanin and then, in the next, is being chided by his comrades for dobbing him in and bringing disgrace to the regiment.

    I don’t personally see a confusion here. Nikolai’s gesture of giving the money to Telyanin is impulsive – but clearly motivated by his sense of compassion for Telyanin’s desperate and pathetic circumstances. But, even so, Nikolai is still disgusted by the theft.

    It seems, by time we arrive at Chapter 5, Nikolai has talked about the whole incident with his comrades – but has erred in his judgement about the consequencs of this information being heard by the other officers. He admits he perhaps should not have done that, but resents being called a liar. So I don’t think that Nikolai for a moment meant to “dob Telyanin in” – he talked about the incident, naively thinking he was just having a conversation. But ike so many things in this whole story, little things have big consequences.

  6. Well, I just posted one comment, and see, Matt, that you had already responded to an earlier one. This is going to be a bit of a record day for comments, it seems.

    I, too, am in Australia – in Melbourne – and the P/V translation is actually quite easily available in shops here. It is admittedly a little pricey – only available in hardcover as far as I can tell, and about $40. And you’re right – they retain all the French as French, with English translations in the footnotes, reflecting Tolstoy’s own approach of translating the French into Russian in his footnotes.

    I started reading he Maude, changed halfway to the Brigges translation and then bought the P/V, which I am now reading alongside the Russian, which is very, very, very laborious – but a good way of helping my even more laboured attempts to learn Russian!

  7. Hmm . . . I might have to keep an eye out for it at some stage. But I think I’ll finish off the Garnett and the Maude and save the P/V for my inevitable third read of the book. (Well, fourth, actually, if it counts as two reads reading two translations simultaneously.)

    Thanks also for clearing up the Telyanin/Nikolai moment. I think your explanation makes sense.

  8. We’ve got the P/V translation too (previously I read the Edmonds). I cannot remember enough of the Edmonds translation to comment but the intro to the P/V certainly spruiks its ability to capture Tolstoy’s prose style.


    I too was inspired to get into Russian by Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky although I don’t think I’m as advanced as you are. Not sure I’m so keen on the Russian food after visiting Russia but the language itself (simple highlights like the diminunitive forms of names) and vodka are good.

    BTW where can one get a Russian language edition of War and Peace in Melbourne?

  9. That theft stuck in my mind . . . you don’t need to be Tolstoy scholar to figure why he ‘got away with it’ . . .

    He’s an officer!

    And isn’t that just how it is in any society, in any century?

    Men get their positions according to who they know, what influence they have – obviously, this officer is going to be treated much differently than just ‘one of the boys’, if he were reported to be stealing.

    This shows up to be true (and I don’t think many people will notice it) further on in the story, btw.

    I’ll say nothing of it now, of course.

  10. I won’t add ‘The Pavlograd Hussars’ to my count as there is no particular number given – they probably show up as individuals somewhere.

    Bogdanich – “You speak to the colonel about this nasty business before other officers,” continued the staff captain, “and Bogdanich” (the colonel was called Bogdanich) “shuts you up.”

    Bondarenko – “Ah, Bondarenko, dear friend!” said he to the hussar who rushed up headlong to the horse.

    Bykov – “Where? At Bykov’s, at the rat’s… I knew it,” replied a piping voice, and Lieutenant Telyanin, a small officer of the same squadron, entered the room. Rat – The Rat – “And what devil made me go to that wat?” (an officer nicknamed “the rat”)

    Denisov – cavalry-captain Denisov, the squadron commander, known throughout the whole cavalry division as Vaska Denisov.

    (I don’t think he got included in the count – I don’t think he was mentioned in earlier chapters either)

    (2) German Officers – Both were silent. There were two Germans and a Russian officer in the room. No one spoke and the only sounds heard were the clatter of knives and the munching of the lieutenant.

    Kirsten – The staff captain, Kirsten, had twice been reduced to the ranks for affairs of honor and had twice regained his commission.

    Landlord – Rostov’s German landlord – His landlord, who in a waistcoat and a pointed cap, pitchfork in hand, was clearing manure from the cowhouse, looked out, and his face immediately brightened on seeing Rostov.

    Lavrushka – “What about your master?” he asked Lavrushka, Denisov’s orderly, whom all the regiment knew for a rogue.

    Lieutenant – In the second room of the inn the lieutenant was sitting over a dish of sausages and a bottle of wine.

    Mathilde – “Long ago,” answered Rostov, “I have already been for the hay, and have seen Fraulein Mathilde.”

    Russian Officer – see above quotation

    Squadron Quartermaster – “The squadron quartermaster!” said Lavrushka.

    Telyanin – “Ah! Telyanin! How d’ye do? They plucked me last night,” came Denisov’s voice from the next room.


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