Just in case you missed it, the thing you were supposed to notice in this chapter was the broken chain of command that led to the charge of the hussars.

In a normal history textbook, General Bagration would have given an order for the hussars to attack.  In Tolstoy’s world, the reality is far more chaotic.

– Bagration gave an order.

– Zherkov wussed out on delivering it.

– The German colonel of the hussars was fighting with the general of the regiment, as to who should attack, and neither wanted to give the order.

– Because of this, the French attacked and forced a retaliatory attack.

– However, even then the colonel’s orders were vague and, in the end:

– It is Denisov who really gives the order to charge.

– And even down to the level of Nikolai, note that it is his horse that charges, not him, so even he can’t seen to be in control of that particular event.

But all of that is really swept aside by the brilliant stream of consciousness description of Nikolai’s ill-fated charge.  I don’t want to say any more in case you haven’t read it yet, but it’s definitely a Tolstoy highlight when Nikolai thinks to himself: “Can they be running to me?  And what for?  To  kill me?  Me, whom everyone’s so fond of?”

Anyway, babysitting calls . . . see you all tomorrow!

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3 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 2.19 – A broken chain of events

  1. Once again here we see the chaos of war – and, once agin, the way in which the trivial and banal ends up having such major consequences: like the ridiculous argument between the German Colonel and the Russian General, and the fatal consequnces that result from it.

    I love Nikolai’s response to being pursued – it brings home so well the innocence, the humanity, that must surely be in every soldier who is pursued, or shot, or bombed in a war – people who were one day loved by someone and then, the next day, the target for someone else’s gunfire.

    But for me, the bit in this chapter that brought an involuntary tear to the eye was the fall of Little Rook. I had become rather fond of Nikolai’s handsome horse with the little limp. By the way, how is his name translated in other versions? Pevear and Volokhonsky call him “Little Rook” as does Briggs, and I see both Garnett and Maude just use “Rook”. I looked up my Russian version, and see that the name there is”Grachik”, which is basically a diminutive of the word for Rook, so probably an even more accurate translation would be something like “Rooky” – except, of course, that has a slightly different meaning in English!

  2. Well, I just call him ‘Nicky’ now . . . I’m on Maude translation, and he seems to be referred to by many versions of his name in the story.

    This part shocked me . . . yes, there’s humour in it – Nicky running around, trying to figure out who the people are approaching – thinking nobody could possibly want to shoot him – he’s Nicolai . . . the guy that everybody loves.

    What shocks me is how inexperienced he was – yet he was allowed to jump right into battle with very little training.

    (Sorry, I haven’t posted much in this segment – I’m still digesting it really . . . but it’s helpful to read your posts on it)

  3. Heh! Heh! I’m still digesting this . . . but I am getting the drift of it – everything’s helter skelter – but somehow, the French finally back off.

    Adjutant –

    “He higher iss dan I in rank,” said the German colonel of the hussars, flushing and addressing an adjutant who had ridden up, “so let him do what he vill, but I cannot sacrifice my hussars… Bugler, sount ze retreat!”

    Bondarchuk –

    Rostov raised his saber, ready to strike, but at that instant the trooper Nikitenko, who was galloping ahead, shot away from him, and Rostov felt as in a dream that he continued to be carried forward with unnatural speed but yet stayed on the same spot.

    Bugler –

    “He higher iss dan I in rank,” said the German colonel of the hussars, flushing and addressing an adjutant who had ridden up, “so let him do what he vill, but I cannot sacrifice my hussars… Bugler, sount ze retreat!”

    Commander of the Pavlograd Regiment –

    But the command of the extreme left flank had been assigned to the commander of the Pavlograd regiment in which Rostov was serving, and a misunderstanding arose.

    French Men Approaching Rostov – (3)

    In front came a man wearing a strange shako and a blue cloak, swarthy, sunburned, and with a hooked nose. Then came two more, and many more running behind.

    German Colonel of the Hussars –

    “He higher iss dan I in rank,” said the German colonel of the hussars, flushing and addressing an adjutant who had ridden up, “so let him do what he vill, but I cannot sacrifice my hussars… Bugler, sount ze retreat!”

    Lannes –

    But our left- which consisted of the Azov and Podolsk infantry and the Pavlograd hussars- was simultaneously attacked and outflanked by superior French forces under Lannes and was thrown into confusion.

    Nikitenko –

    Rostov raised his saber, ready to strike, but at that instant the trooper Nikitenko, who was galloping ahead, shot away from him, and Rostov felt as in a dream that he continued to be carried forward with unnatural speed but yet stayed on the same spot.

    Russian Hussar –

    In among the hindmost of these men wearing similar shakos was a Russian hussar.

    266

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