Sorry, folks, I don’t know what happened to my blog post – for some reason, everything I wrote has come up as the word “undefined” . . . WordPress, what are you doing to me?

Sadly, all my thoughts from this moment have vanished, but I was going to say, the surreal nature of the front line here is what is so impressive.  A couple of officers are getting drunk and eating food in a tent over here, another one is getting whipped for stealing over there (a subtle reminder of the Telyanin incident).

All of this is, of course, Tolstoy’s way of driving home the surreal nature of the moment – a Russian army, some of whom are believing the French will surrender, but hearing news of battle and the rest of whom are believing the French will fight, but hearing news of surrender.  And, of course, we know it’s actually both – because of all the complex trickery from the previous chapter.

But, really, the greatest moment in the chapter has to be the return of Dolokhov.  I don’t know whether Tolstoy had as much fun writing him as I have reading him, but you wouldn’t cut this from the book for quids.  Here we are, at the centre of the line, and Dolokhov is yelling insults at the French. Again, it reinforces my opinion of Dolokhov – you probably wouldn’t like him if you met him, but you’d never be bored.

Also, attention should be paid to barefoot Captain Tushin.  He will go on to become important (and not just because he put his boots on).

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5 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 2.15 – The Surreal Front Line

  1. I also just love the end of this chapter, where Sidorov does his little language carry-on, sending all the Russians into peals of laughter, which eventually the French join in. Don’t we all know those moments where someone gets the giggles and everyone ends up joining in, usually without the foggiest idea what they’re laughing about – and suddenly there’s this wonderful cameraderie amongst you all? I think Tolstoy describes this so wonderfully – and then, like a thud of an axe, brings us back to reality. I hope it’s not too indulgent for me to quote the whole passage, the last two paragraphs of the chapter, here (from the P/V translation):

    ‘”Ho, ho, ho! Ha, ha, ha, ha! Hoo, hoo!” Peals of such healthy and merry guffawing came from among the soldiers that it corssed the line and involuntarily infected the French, after which it seemed that they ought quickly to unload their guns, blow up their munitions, and all quickly go back home.

    ‘But the guns remained loaded, the loopholes in the houses and fortifications looked out just as menacingly, and the unlimbered cannon remained turned against each other just as before.’

  2. This is the chapter where the soldier is beaten for stealing . . . he is stripped naked, then beaten! Why is that necessary? To strip him naked?

    I see the injustice here . . . the duplicity. Remember when the ‘officer’ stole? The officer wasn’t punished – they raised hell with Rostov for having made the accusation!

    But when it’s just a soldier? Beat him – strip him naked and beat him!

    ………………………………………….

    There’s something else that strikes me as intriguing here . . . this ‘brotherhood’ of the men. Even though this soldier is being beaten, we know he’ll be once accepted into the fold and all will be forgiven. In our armies, US & Canadian – and I suppose, England – you’d be in the hooscow for weeks on end! And you’d face dishonourable discharge!

    The Muslim men in the middle east are that way . . . remember in 2002 (I think that’s when it was) when all those members of the Taliban were captured? The Americans agreed to hand them over to ‘The Northern Alliance’ so they could deal with them. We expected they’d be imprisoned, tried for their cruelty to the Afghanistan people. But no . . . The Northern Alliance released them to their homes – they said ‘they are our brothers’.

    I find these Russian soldiers are ‘as brothers’ too. There have been many instances where I’ve thought of Muslim men when reading of the ways of these Russian fellows.

    ………………………………………….

    OK, I seem to be full of myself here this afternoon . . . might as well go on spouting my opinion . . . does anyone remember a time when ‘Russia’ was the enemy of the western world? Remember a certain person making this statement, and that statement appearing in big block letters on the front pages of our newspapers, scaring the shit out of everybody?

    WE WILL BURY YOU!

    Here we are reading of this war with Napoleon, and rooting for the Russians!

    OK – I’ll shaddup’ . . . I will add the following to my count of 213 . . .

    Adjutant – another one?

    Bonaparte’s adjutant had not yet reached Murat’s detachment and the battle had not yet begun.

    (I’ll add it to the count, for now)

    Major – Stout Major

    A stout major was pacing up and down the line, and regardless of the screams kept repeating:

    “It’s a shame for a soldier to steal; a soldier must be honest, honorable, and brave, but if he robs his fellows there is no honor in him, he’s a scoundrel. Go on! Go on!”

    was pacing up and down the line

    Canteen keeper –

    Now you, Captain,” and he turned to a thin, dirty little artillery officer who without his boots (he had given them to the canteen keeper to dry), in only his stockings, rose when they entered, smiling not altogether comfortably.

    French Grenadier –

    “Look! Look there!” one soldier was saying to another, pointing to a Russian musketeer who had gone up to the picket line with an officer and was rapidly and excitedly talking to a French grenadier. “Hark to him jabbering! Fine, isn’t it? It’s all the Frenchy can do to keep up with him. There now, Sidorov!”

    Lukich –

    “Let us go, Ivan Lukich,” he said to the captain.

    Musketeer –

    “Look! Look there!” one soldier was saying to another, pointing to a Russian musketeer who had gone up to the picket line with an officer and was rapidly and excitedly talking to a French grenadier. “Hark to him jabbering! Fine, isn’t it? It’s all the Frenchy can do to keep up with him. There now, Sidorov!”

    Officer –

    The officer on duty, a handsome, elegantly dressed man with a diamond ring on his forefinger, who was fond of speaking French though he spoke it badly, offered to conduct Prince Andrew.

    Officer –

    In one company dinner was ready, and the soldiers were gazing eagerly at the steaming boiler, waiting till the sample, which a quartermaster sergeant was carrying in a wooden bowl to an officer who sat on a log before his shelter, had been tasted.

    Officer –

    A young officer with a bewildered and pained expression on his face stepped away from the man and looked round inquiringly at the adjutant as he rode by.

    Officer –

    “Look! Look there!” one soldier was saying to another, pointing to a Russian musketeer who had gone up to the picket line with an officer and was rapidly and excitedly talking to a French grenadier. “Hark to him jabbering! Fine, isn’t it? It’s all the Frenchy can do to keep up with him. There now, Sidorov!”

    Quartermaster Sergeant –

    In one company dinner was ready, and the soldiers were gazing eagerly at the steaming boiler, waiting till the sample, which a quartermaster sergeant was carrying in a wooden bowl to an officer who sat on a log before his shelter, had been tasted.

    Sergeant Major –

    Another company, a lucky one for not all the companies had vodka, crowded round a pock-marked, broad-shouldered sergeant major who, tilting a keg, filled one after another the canteen lids held out to him.

    Sidorov –

    “Look! Look there!” one soldier was saying to another, pointing to a Russian musketeer who had gone up to the picket line with an officer and was rapidly and excitedly talking to a French grenadier. “Hark to him jabbering! Fine, isn’t it? It’s all the Frenchy can do to keep up with him. There now, Sidorov!”

    Soldier –

    “Look! Look there!” one soldier was saying to another, pointing to a Russian musketeer who had gone up to the picket line with an officer and was rapidly and excitedly talking to a French grenadier. “Hark to him jabbering! Fine, isn’t it? It’s all the Frenchy can do to keep up with him. There now, Sidorov!”

    Soldiers Beating Man (2)

    Two soldiers held him while two others were flourishing their switches and striking him regularly on his bare back. The man shrieked unnaturally.

    Soldiers Holding Man – (2)

    Two soldiers held him while two others were flourishing their switches and striking him regularly on his bare back. The man shrieked unnaturally. A stout major was pacing up and down the line

    Staff Officer –

    “There now, Prince! We can’t stop those fellows,” said the staff officer pointing to the soldiers.

    Tushin – Captain Tushin – Artillery Officer (Without His Boots)

    Now you, Captain,” and he turned to a thin, dirty little artillery officer who without his boots (he had given them to the canteen keeper to dry), in only his stockings, rose when they entered, smiling not altogether comfortably.

    233

  3. This is the chapter where the soldier is beaten for stealing . . . he is stripped naked, then beaten! Why is that necessary? To strip him naked?

    I see the injustice here . . . the duplicity. Remember when the ‘officer’ stole? The officer wasn’t punished – they raised hell with Rostov for having made the accusation!

    But when it’s just a soldier? Beat him – strip him naked and beat him!

    ………………………………………….

    There’s something else that strikes me as intriguing here . . . this ‘brotherhood’ of the men. Even though this soldier is being beaten, we know he’ll be once accepted into the fold and all will be forgiven. In our armies, US & Canadian – and I suppose, England – you’d be in the hooscow for weeks on end! And you’d face dishonourable discharge!

    The Muslim men in the middle east are that way . . . remember in 2002 (I think that’s when it was) when all those members of the Taliban were captured? The Americans agreed to hand them over to ‘The Northern Alliance’ so they could deal with them. We expected they’d be imprisoned, tried for their cruelty to the Afghanistan people. But no . . . The Northern Alliance released them to their homes – they said ‘they are our brothers’.

    I find these Russian soldiers are ‘as brothers’ too. There have been many instances where I’ve thought of Muslim men when reading of the ways of these Russian fellows.

    ………………………………………….

    OK, I seem to be full of myself here this afternoon . . . might as well go on spouting my opinion . . . does anyone remember a time when ‘Russia’ was the enemy of the western world? Remember a certain person making this statement, and that statement appearing in big block letters on the front pages of our newspapers, scaring the shit out of everybody?

    WE WILL BURY YOU!

    Here we are reading of this war with Napoleon, and rooting for the Russians!

  4. OK – I’ll shaddup’ . . . I will add the following to my count of 213 . . .

    Adjutant – another one?

    Bonaparte’s adjutant had not yet reached Murat’s detachment and the battle had not yet begun.

    (I’ll add it to the count, for now)

    Major – Stout Major

    A stout major was pacing up and down the line, and regardless of the screams kept repeating:

    “It’s a shame for a soldier to steal; a soldier must be honest, honorable, and brave, but if he robs his fellows there is no honor in him, he’s a scoundrel. Go on! Go on!”

    was pacing up and down the line

    Canteen keeper –

    Now you, Captain,” and he turned to a thin, dirty little artillery officer who without his boots (he had given them to the canteen keeper to dry), in only his stockings, rose when they entered, smiling not altogether comfortably.

    French Grenadier –

    “Look! Look there!” one soldier was saying to another, pointing to a Russian musketeer who had gone up to the picket line with an officer and was rapidly and excitedly talking to a French grenadier. “Hark to him jabbering! Fine, isn’t it? It’s all the Frenchy can do to keep up with him. There now, Sidorov!”

    Lukich –

    “Let us go, Ivan Lukich,” he said to the captain.

    Musketeer –

    “Look! Look there!” one soldier was saying to another, pointing to a Russian musketeer who had gone up to the picket line with an officer and was rapidly and excitedly talking to a French grenadier. “Hark to him jabbering! Fine, isn’t it? It’s all the Frenchy can do to keep up with him. There now, Sidorov!”

    Officer –

    The officer on duty, a handsome, elegantly dressed man with a diamond ring on his forefinger, who was fond of speaking French though he spoke it badly, offered to conduct Prince Andrew.

    Officer –

    In one company dinner was ready, and the soldiers were gazing eagerly at the steaming boiler, waiting till the sample, which a quartermaster sergeant was carrying in a wooden bowl to an officer who sat on a log before his shelter, had been tasted.

    Officer –

    A young officer with a bewildered and pained expression on his face stepped away from the man and looked round inquiringly at the adjutant as he rode by.

    Officer –

    “Look! Look there!” one soldier was saying to another, pointing to a Russian musketeer who had gone up to the picket line with an officer and was rapidly and excitedly talking to a French grenadier. “Hark to him jabbering! Fine, isn’t it? It’s all the Frenchy can do to keep up with him. There now, Sidorov!”

    Quartermaster Sergeant –

    In one company dinner was ready, and the soldiers were gazing eagerly at the steaming boiler, waiting till the sample, which a quartermaster sergeant was carrying in a wooden bowl to an officer who sat on a log before his shelter, had been tasted.

    Sergeant Major –

    Another company, a lucky one for not all the companies had vodka, crowded round a pock-marked, broad-shouldered sergeant major who, tilting a keg, filled one after another the canteen lids held out to him.

    Sidorov –

    “Look! Look there!” one soldier was saying to another, pointing to a Russian musketeer who had gone up to the picket line with an officer and was rapidly and excitedly talking to a French grenadier. “Hark to him jabbering! Fine, isn’t it? It’s all the Frenchy can do to keep up with him. There now, Sidorov!”

    Soldier –

    “Look! Look there!” one soldier was saying to another, pointing to a Russian musketeer who had gone up to the picket line with an officer and was rapidly and excitedly talking to a French grenadier. “Hark to him jabbering! Fine, isn’t it? It’s all the Frenchy can do to keep up with him. There now, Sidorov!”

    Soldiers Beating Man (2)

    Two soldiers held him while two others were flourishing their switches and striking him regularly on his bare back. The man shrieked unnaturally.

    Soldiers Holding Man – (2)

    Two soldiers held him while two others were flourishing their switches and striking him regularly on his bare back. The man shrieked unnaturally. A stout major was pacing up and down the line

    Staff Officer –

    “There now, Prince! We can’t stop those fellows,” said the staff officer pointing to the soldiers.

    Tushin – Captain Tushin – Artillery Officer (Without His Boots)

    Now you, Captain,” and he turned to a thin, dirty little artillery officer who without his boots (he had given them to the canteen keeper to dry), in only his stockings, rose when they entered, smiling not altogether comfortably.

    233

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