Maybe it’s a throwback to my younger days of Jules Verne and other adventure novels, but there’s something a bit boy’s own about this chapter that I loved.  Also, despite the fact that film was far from invented then, Tolstoy also has a very visual sense of suspense, which someone like Alfred Hitchcock or Peter Jackson would love.

First, Nikolai is just riding along, and he’s not sure if he can see the French through the mist.  It might be a fire, it might not be.  And Tolstoy isn’t shifting the camera away from Nikolai’s point of view, so we don’t know what’s out there.

Then, the rather humorous interlude where he’s falling asleep, and then out of the darkness . . . shouts, cheers and small flames.  What’s going on?

When Bagration and Dolgurokov appear, that gives us a chance to go adventuring, so Tolstoy’s camera follows Nikolai’s mad horse race to see if there are still French pickets out there in the mist.  He gallops down the hill, across the road, not being able to see in front of him . . . and then bullets are fired at him!  And he turns and gallops back with shots ringing out after him.  If that’s not a classic film suspense/action scene, then I don’t know what is.

You’ve also got to love the similarity between Nikolai and Andrei in the first chapter – there’s a difference in age – but for both of them, there’s this fantasy-world that they’re living in where everyone thinks they’re wonderful because of their heroic actions.

Finally, Tolstoy pulls back out for a big picture historical view, by quoting from an actual letter of Napoleon’s that was read out to the soliders in the battle.  It’s going to be a big day tomorrow . . .

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2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 3.13 – Nikolai’s Adventure

  1. I remember you mentiong a few chapters ago, Matt, how Tolstoy is, at the moment, giving us a series of a little vignettes, snapshots, of life at the battlefront before Austerlitz – little glimpses, if you like, of some of those zillions of tiny wheels and cogs, as Tolstoy himself described them.

    I really love the way Tolstoy has been doing this – how every snapshot tells its own little story and, at the same time, almost imperceptibly bilds for us a picture of the whole. It’s not a picture that exactly fills us with confidence about the future of humanity, if these are the people entrusted with the defeat of the Usurper and Enemy of Human Race, though, is it? I mean, what have we seen – a Commander in Chief falling asleep at the Council of War, vanity, ambition, petty squabbles, blind patriotism, and now even the good-natured Rostov dozing off, and then, exactly like a little kid at school, pretending to not hear orders just so he can charge forth and make a hero of himself.

    It’s all a bit worrying – and yet the thing that Tolstoy does so uniquely with it all, is that everyone of these stories has been told in a way that makes them seem, at least for me, so utterly normal. We find ourselvs identifying (or at least I do) with pretty well all of these people, with all of their weanesses, their immaturities, their vanities and – as you demonstrated in no uncertain terms last night, Matt – their weariness!

    So, while the whole picture is becoming one where chaos, incompetence and confusion are all mixed together, it’s a picture in which everyone of us, I suspect, has seen a little bit of ourselves, over and over again. I find that pretty sobering, really – and, of course, very, very good writing.

  2. Fedchenko – Sergeant Fedchenko

    Rostov spurred his horse, called to Sergeant Fedchenko and two other hussars, told them to follow him, and trotted downhill in the direction from which the shouting came. He felt both frightened and pleased to be riding alone with three hussars into that mysterious and dangerous misty distance where no one had been before him.

    Guryev –

    Along the Tverskaya Street rode the hussar with mustaches… I thought about him too, just opposite Guryev’s house… Old Guryev…. Oh, but Denisov’s a fine fellow.

    Hussar –

    Rostov lifted his head that had sunk almost to his horse’s mane and pulled up beside the hussar.

    Hussar –

    His horse and the horse of the hussar near him pricked their ears at these shouts.

    Hussar –

    Along the Tverskaya Street rode the hussar with mustaches… I thought about him too, just opposite Guryev’s house… Old Guryev…. Oh, but Denisov’s a fine fellow.

    Hussar –

    “What’s that? What do you make of it?” said Rostov to the hussar beside him. “That must be the enemy’s camp!”

    Hussar – Sergeant of Hussars

    The sound of horse’s hoofs approaching at a trot along the line of hussars was heard, and out of the foggy darkness the figure of a sergeant of hussars suddenly appeared, looming huge as an elephant.

    Hussars – 2

    Rostov spurred his horse, called to Sergeant Fedchenko and two other hussars, told them to follow him, and trotted downhill in the direction from which the shouting came. He felt both frightened and pleased to be riding alone with three hussars into that mysterious and dangerous misty distance where no one had been before him.

    Hussar –

    “Your honor, there he is!” cried one of the hussars behind him.

    354

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