This chapter really does speak for itself – but how cool is it to have Dolohov lead a charge, capture a French officer, and have the gall to butt in on his commanding general – all so he can get himself reinstated.  There is absolutely no stopping this man . . .

And then, the scene shifts to the amazing stand of Tushin and his cannons on top of the hill.  Tolstoy’s description of the elation and madness here is brilliant.  I know there were many of thinking a month and a half was a long time to wait for battle scenes, but I hope they were worth it.

It should also be mentioned that this whole battle of Schöngraben was really just a minor skirmish compared to the bigger ones to come . . . So, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet, folks.

See you tomorrow.

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4 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 2.20 – Dolohov’s Triumph & Tushin’s Madness

  1. Yep – you gotta love Dolokhov! Remember, this was the guy who drank the bottle of rum hanging out a window – so I guess it’s not particularly surprising that he wouldn’t be too backward in coming forward to get himself himself reinstated. I just love the way he doesn’t give up … when his bragging about his achievements doesn’t seem to have much of an impact, he pushes himself even further forward: untying his bandages and showing off his wounds. I don’t know about you but, for me, there was something almost Monty Pythonesque in that scene.

    And then there were those lines at the end of the chapter, with Tushin bidding Andrei farewell, and those tears – those tears that, in saying so little, said so much. But that’s Tolstoy for you.

  2. Yeah, it’s a strange thing. I’ve never been in a war (and I’m rather glad for that), but yet, I instinctively feel when I read these descriptions that these emotions, these feelings, are what it would feel like to the soldier on the ground.

    It’s certainly a far cry from the war film of today – where everything is fairly macho and tough. These battle scenes are inherently more quirky – Nikolai wondering why everybody is galloping faster than him, Tushin imagining that the smoke puffs of the enemy cannon are like a pipe, etc. But in their quirkiness, they feel infinitely more real.

    After all, how else would you detach from the horror of knowing that your life could end in any second?

  3. You’re right, Matt … there really is a “yeah” factor in these descriptions – a feeling that that must be what it would be like: whether it’s a description of a battle or a ball, or any other of the millions of things that Tolstoy describes throughout the course of the book. I think his ability to make you go “yeah, that’s what it would be like” is the crux of his skill as a writer, and I suspect that it’s for precisely the reason you mention: the way he focusses on the quirks. I mean, surely only Tolstoy would give to someone like Nikolai those lines, in yesterday’s chapter, where he wondered how anyone could want to shoot a him when he is such a likeable bloke. But it’s precisely because he does say that it seems so convincing. It’s all these little quirks, which Tolstoy captures so magically, and so unpreteniously, that makes reading, and rereading, and rerereading, him so rewarding.

    I have to say that I am decidedly unblokey in that I really don’t go in for war writing much at all – and even in War and Peace I find myself getting pretty bamboozled sometimes about what the left flank is doing and how that relates to centre flank of the infantry or the right flank of the cavalry as it draws down on the extreme left-right flank of the something-or-other … but then there’s never more than a line or two before there is yet another Tolstoy classic observation that reminds me that even those flanks and battalions and infantries and things are no more, nor no less, than thousands and thousands of people, each with his own humanity and each with his little quirks that make me think, yet again, “yeah, that’s what it would be like”!!

  4. Artilleryman –

    “A staff officer was here a minute ago, but skipped off,” said an artilleryman to Prince Andrew. “Not like your honor!”

    Drunkard Number One –

    In that world, the handsome drunkard Number One of the second gun’s crew was “uncle”; Tushin looked at him more often than at anyone else and took delight in his every movement.

    Ekonomov –

    The regimental commander and Major Ekonomov had stopped beside a bridge, letting the retreating companies pass by them, when a soldier came up and took hold of the commander’s stirrup, almost leaning against him.

    Frenchman Killed by Dolokhov –

    Frenchman Taken Prisoner –

    Dolokhov, running beside Timokhin, killed a Frenchman at close quarters and was the first to seize the surrendering French officer by his collar.

    Munitions Driver –

    In their childlike glee, aroused by the fire and their luck in successfully cannonading the French, our artillerymen only noticed this battery when two balls, and then four more, fell among our guns, one knocking over two horses and another tearing off a munition-wagon driver’s leg.

    Orderly Staff Officer –

    Tushin’s battery had been forgotten and only at the very end of the action did Prince Bagration, still hearing the cannonade in the center, send his orderly staff officer, and later Prince Andrew also, to order the battery to retire as quickly as possible.

    Soldier – Panicking –

    One soldier, in his fear, uttered the senseless cry, “Cut off!” that is so terrible in battle, and that word infected the whole crowd with a feeling of panic.

    Timokhin –

    It was Timokhin’s company, which alone had maintained its order in the wood and, having lain in ambush in a ditch, now attacked the French unexpectedly.

    Tushin’s Companion Officer –

    Tushin’s companion officer had been killed at the beginning of the engagement and within an hour seventeen of the forty men of the guns’ crews had been disabled, but the artillerymen were still as merry and lively as ever.

    Tushin’s Orderly –

    Little Tushin, moving feebly and awkwardly, kept telling his orderly to “refill my pipe for that one!”

    277

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