Sorry, behind again! I will get there!

In this chapter, Nikolai manages to get his crazy dream come true, and it sent out with a message for Kutuzov.  (However, as Tolstoy tells us, despite Nikolai’s joy, this is just a stalling move on the part of General Bagration.)

But as Nikolai rides, and we cross from the right side of the Russian line (where things are relatively quiet) to the left side (where the army is getting absolutely hammered by the French), the chaos gradually grows.  This chapter is more a series of vignettes, but all of them are fully realised – probably most memorable is where Nikolai almost gets runs over by the Horse Guards . . .

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3 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 3.17 – Nikolai’s Ride

  1. The thing that I like so much about this chapter is precisely the point you make about it Matt – the way that it gives us a series of such cleverly realised vignettes. We get such a terrific image of the battle, just by all these little things that Nikolai sees on his ride across the army – some of it really pretty frightening.

    But isn’t it kind of disturbing the way Bagration is prepared to so easily toss aside a human life, just as a stalling tactic in his determination to win an argument?

    Once again, any myths about the noble motives at war, even from the good guys, is well and truly shattered.

  2. Well that is one way to go about it.

    Here is another:

    You start with Russian short stories until you get into the strange names and twists.

    Now you go sleep in the barn reading all night long, 12 to 14 hours per day, and move into the Russian classics, plowing through them without any analysis, just consume, and digest by second intention.

    Ok, when you do this route, you dive in- total immersion.
    Six to eight months and you have them all, plus have automatically entered the depression of Russian fiction- it is an automatic outcome.

    It takes about a year or two to flush the negative effects of a dive into the Russian lit pool, but you get to see how British lit got better from it.

    Do not try this at home.
    It is only for professionals.

  3. I agree . . . these people are heartless! The officers seems to trod on anybody they please for their own benefit – seems the higher up the men are, the more vain they are.
    The Emperor – the beloved Emperor . . . when asked what he thinks of the strategy replies – oh, I’m engaged in eating (whatever it was) right now – I’ll leave it up to you.
    And he ends up blubbering like a child when he finds out all this fighting and killing is real!
    Anyway – who the heck am I to judge Russian men, never mind anybody else . . . I’m just the reader and I guess if everything worked out perfectly, with everyone doing what they really ‘should be’ doing, there wouldn’t be a story.
    I will add these people to my count of 376:
    Austrian Officer in White –
    “There he is!” said Boris, thinking Rostov had said “His Highness,” and pointing to the Grand Duke who with his high shoulders and frowning brows stood a hundred paces away from them in his helmet and Horse Guards’ jacket, shouting something to a pale, white uniformed Austrian officer.
    …………………………….
    German –
    “Zum Henker diese Russen!”* muttered a German.
    * “Hang these Russians!”
    ……………………………..
    Grand Duke –
    “There he is!” said Boris, thinking Rostov had said “His Highness,” and pointing to the Grand Duke who with his high shoulders and frowning brows stood a hundred paces away from them in his helmet and Horse Guards’ jacket, shouting something to a pale, white uniformed Austrian officer.
    ……………………………
    Horse Guard –
    The last of the Horse Guards, a huge pockmarked fellow, frowned angrily on seeing Rostov before him, with whom he would inevitably collide.
    …………………………….
    Officer –
    Rostov could already see their faces and heard the command: “Charge!” shouted by an officer who was urging his thoroughbred to full speed.
    ………………………………
    Uvarov –
    At first he rode along the line of Bagration’s troops, which had not yet advanced into action but were standing motionless; then he came to the region occupied by Uvarov’s cavalry and here he noticed a stir and signs of preparation for battle; having passed Uvarov’s cavalry he clearly heard the sound of cannon and musketry ahead of him.
    382

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