If you’re thinking there’s not much in War and Peace beyond battle scenes and parties, you could actually be right . . .

But, no, let’s not think like that – who wouldn’t want to miss another of Tolstoy’s minutely described celebrations?

In this case, the minor details (that’s not so minor) is to notice two things: a) that Count Rostov has just mortgaged his estate, which is an impending sign of his terrible financial status and b) he’s blowing it on rubbish things like Nikolai’s clothes and great parties for Bagration.

Actually, this chapter is a bit funny, because the stuff that would be considered a bit shocking to us is kind of passed over in a rather matter-of-fact way.  So Nikolai gives Sonya the flick, and starts hanging around bars and brothels, and this is just the good old Russian soldier thing to do.

Bagration, despite his complete incompetence (at least according to Tolstoy) on the battlefield, has become the hero of the hour, because nobody got killed under his command – and Kutuzov and the Austrians completely tack the rap for everything that went wrong at Austerlitz . . .

Human nature, eh?  And all of this is going to underpin the party that follows in the next few chapters . . .

See you tomorrow.

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2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 4.2 – Another Party Warms Up

  1. Like so many other chapters where we’ve seen Tolstoy showing us the trivial things in all their little quirky details, I reckon this chapter, too, gives us another wonderful piece of that massive mosaic that we discussed a little while ago.

    Here, I think it’s done so cleverly. Not only do we get all this delightful picture of Nikolai’s Dad bustling about organising this ridiculously exteravagent dinner; not only do we see this really humorous picture of the cream of Moscow society preferring to stay at home rather than have go to te social clubs and be forced to talk about the Russian defeat at Austerlitz; not only do we see history being rewritten before our eyes; but we also see such a wonderfully crafted portrait of Nikolai – after all those lofty thoughts and feelings and love for the tsar, so beautifully and poetically written a few chapters ago, the tsar is now more or less out of sight and out of mind and the more earthy interests of youth have taken over instead.

    It’s just all so real and believable and must, I imagine, have been quite a jolt to the readers in Tolstoy’s day to have had their noble hero now being portrayed in such a prosaic way. But that’s humanity, that’s life – and that’s Tolstoy.

  2. So they think Andrei’s dead? I don’t know about that – he wasn’t in good shape when we saw him last, when Napoleon had placed him under the care of Dr. Larrey – the doctor didn’t think he’d make it.

    But had he died, I think Tolstoy would have said so before that last chapter closed.

    ………………………………

    I kind of suspected Nicholai was going to get into ‘racing horses’. He was always avid to buy a horse; he seemed to have an interest in horses.

    I will add these characters to my count of 411 . . .

    Club Steward –

    The count walked up and down the hall in his dressing gown, giving orders to the club steward and to the famous Feoktist, the Club’s head cook, about asparagus, fresh cucumbers, strawberries, veal, and fish for this dinner.

    Club’s Head Cook –

    The count walked up and down the hall in his dressing gown, giving orders to the club steward and to the famous Feoktist, the Club’s head cook, about asparagus, fresh cucumbers, strawberries, veal, and fish for this dinner.

    Coachman –

    We can’t get them from anyone else. He’s not there himself, so you’ll have to go in and ask the princesses; and from there go on to the Rasgulyay- the coachman Ipatka knows- and look up the gypsy Ilyushka, the one who danced at Count Orlov’s, you remember, in a white Cossack coat, and bring him along to me.”

    Factotum –

    Gallop off to our Moscow estate,” he said to the factotum who appeared at his call.

    Gavril –

    His despair at failing in a Scripture examination, his borrowing money from Gavril to pay a sleigh driver, his kissing Sonya on the sly- he now recalled all this as childishness he had left immeasurably behind.

    Ilyushka the Gypsy –

    We can’t get them from anyone else. He’s not there himself, so you’ll have to go in and ask the princesses; and from there go on to the Rasgulyay- the coachman Ipatka knows- and look up the gypsy Ilyushka, the one who danced at Count Orlov’s, you remember, in a white Cossack coat, and bring him along to me.”

    Ipatka –

    We can’t get them from anyone else. He’s not there himself, so you’ll have to go in and ask the princesses; and from there go on to the Rasgulyay- the coachman Ipatka knows- and look up the gypsy Ilyushka, the one who danced at Count Orlov’s, you remember, in a white Cossack coat, and bring him along to me.”

    Ivanovna – Mary Ivanova (Dolokhov’s mother) –

    “Dolokhov, Mary Ivanovna’s son,” she said in a mysterious whisper, “has compromised her completely, they say.

    Kamenski –

    He led the mazurka at the Arkharovs’ ball, talked about the war with Field Marshal Kamenski, visited the English Club, and was on intimate terms with a colonel of forty to whom Denisov had introduced.

    Lady on One of the Boulevards – Courtesan?

    He knew a lady on one of the boulevards whom he visited of an evening.

    Maksim –

    “Hurry off and tell Maksim, the gardener, to set the serfs to work.

    Rostopchin – Count Rostopchin

    The men who set the tone in conversation- Count Rostopchin, Prince Yuri Dolgorukov, Valuev, Count Markov, and Prince
    Vyazemski- did not show themselves at the Club, but met in private houses in intimate circles, and the Moscovites who took their opinions from others- Ilya Rostov among them- remained for a while without any definite opinion on the subject of the war and without leaders.

    Shinshin –

    “Had there been no Bagration, it would have been necessary to invent him,” said the wit Shinshin, parodying the words of Voltaire.

    Voltaire –

    “Had there been no Bagration, it would have been necessary to invent him,” said the wit Shinshin, parodying the words of Voltaire.

    Vyazemski – Prince Vyazemski –

    The men who set the tone in conversation- Count Rostopchin, Prince Yuri Dolgorukov, Valuev, Count Markov, and Prince Vyazemski- did not show themselves at the Club, but met in private houses in intimate circles, and the Moscovites who took their opinions from others- Ilya Rostov among them- remained for a while without any definite opinion on the subject of the war and without leaders.

    Total – 426

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