As this party gets completely underway, I realised that I forgot to comment on the revelations about Pierre’s marriage in yesterday’s chapter – his wife, at least as far as the rumours go, has been unfaithful to him.

And does it surprise us in the least that it’s Dolokhov that is the Other Man?  Not really . . .

Unlike the stories about the battles, where Tolstoy shows us the reality and the exaggerations in the drawing rooms afterwards, we are left to wonder how much truth there is to the rumours about Helene.  But, seriously, is she capable of cheating on him?  I think so.

Is Dolokhov capable of being that much a rogue? Absolutely!

So, with both men (but no Helene, unless I missed something) at the same party, and the vodka flowing freely, it could be an interesting night . . . but then if you’ve read ahead, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

But that’s for tomorrow.

I was also going to comment on the fact that poor old Pierre, despite his new-found riches, is still the odd one out at social functions.  Too rich to hang around with the young men, too naive to really hang around with the old rich.  Always an outsider.

But my really big questions from this chapter is – why did glass-breaking never pick up in the West but seems to be really big in Eastern European countries?  Apart from the fact that you’d want pretty solid shoes, and the catering stuff would absolutely hate you, there seems to me something immensely satisfying about knowing that that toast is the last thing that glass will ever be used for.

Or maybe you think it’s a crazy Russian thing.

Throw in some bad poetry, the irony of Bagration being introduced to Nikolai (the very young man he was happy to send down to Kutuzov on the front line at the Battle of Austerlitz) and even more alcohol, is it any wonder that Count Rostov is in tears by the end of the chapter?

And there’s more to come tomorrow . . .


3 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 4.3 – Pierre the Outsider

  1. I think this chapter brought, for me, my first laugh-out-loud moments in W&P – I just thought everyone getting drunker and drunker, and then Count Ilya finally bursting into tears when they propose a toast to him, just hilarious. The Rostovs really do sound like a hoot of a family and, in fact, it just occurred to me reading this chapter how very much alike they all are (leaving Vera aside for the moment) – especially Nikolai and Natasha – so full of enthusiasm for whatever they happen to be doing at the time. Notice how, once again, Nikolai is overcome with love for the Tsar, now that he has a few vodkas under his belt. And isn’t there always someone like him at these things, whether it’s a classy club or the local pub – someone who is just that little bit more enthusiastic, and that little bit more audible, than everyone else?

    And then, too, there’s the terrific description of Bagration – all awkward and out-of-sorts because he’s not on a battlefield. There were more laugh out loud moments there, too.

    I gather, from some of the footnotes to my edition of W&P, that this dinner really did take place, and those poems really were read out. I’m not sure if the bit where everyone stops listening to the poem because dinner is being served really happened or not – but it’s a great touch, in any event.

    But as for the tradition of smashing glasses – guess I am kind of relieved that that is one bit of Russian culture that hasn’t found its way into the West. I wouldn’t be able to afford the glasses, let alone the staff to clean them all up!

  2. I’m still struggling to keep all the names straight in my head, sadly. I suspect that future readings will be more useful. I must be getting attached to the characters, though – I worry for the mortgaging of properties… something bad is going to happen!

    Also, I’ve tagged you with a “random facts” meme: rules are here. Might break up the W&P coverage a little.

  3. Well, it was my confusion with names that made me start my character count – I read somewhere on one of the forums that are covering this book, that it’s best to keep your own count – not just follow someone else’s list – that way, you’ll remember the people. And it’s turned out to be right . . . for me, at least.

    I will be adding these to my count of 426:

    Author –

    But the author himself took the verses and began reading them aloud. Bagration bowed his bead and listened:
    Bring glory then to Alexander’s reign
    And on the throne our Titus shield.
    A dreaded foe be thou, kindhearted as a man,
    A Rhipheus at home, a Caesar in the field!
    E’en fortunate Napoleon
    Knows by experience, now, Bagration,
    And dare not Herculean Russians trouble…

    Bekleshev – Alexander Bekleshev –

    He was seated in the place of honor between two Alexanders- Bekleshev and Naryshkin- which was a significant allusion to the name of the sovereign.

    Butler –

    He winked at the butler, whispered directions to the footmen, and awaited each expected dish with some anxiety.

    Major Domo –

    But before he had finished reading, a stentorian major-domo announced that dinner was ready!

    Naryshkin – Alexander Naryshkin –

    He was seated in the place of honor between two Alexanders- Bekleshev and Naryshkin- which was a significant allusion to the name of the sovereign.


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