Well, here we go – you haven’t really lived in the 1800s until you’ve challenged someone to a duel, have you?

Cafedave expressed some concern about keeping all the names straight.  I’ll address that briefly.

First off – don’t worry about most of them.  You’ll either eventually work them out because they’ll appear a gazillion times or they’ll die out and you won’t have to worry about them.

Secondly – on a positive note, most of the major speaking parts have been introduced by this stage.  I know it seems like there’s heaps of random characters, but they’re actually just re-used versions of one that Tolstoy introduced ages ago.  However, it is bizarre where some of them pop up.

For instance, Nesvitski, who is sitting next to Pierre and has become his second in his duel – has never really been mentioned in relation to Pierre at all in this chapter.  We first met him at the beginning of Book 2, when he was on Kutuzov’s staff.  You might remember him as one of the officers who laughed at General Mack when he showed up wounded (and who got severely reprimanded for it by Andrei) or you might remember him being the soldier who was stuck on the bridge that was being bombed by the French and couldn’t get across because of the all the soldiers going back and forth.  Quite how he came to be on the invite list for this party that Count Rostov is throwing for Bagration is never quite explained, but these little character crossovers become more common in the novel from now on.  (Rather than new characters being introduced.)

Bagration – the man of the hour is the general in Book 2 who wandered around the battle of Schöngraben pretending to give orders without really giving any at all.  And at the Battle of Austerlitz at the end of Book3, he wussed out on the right flank of the Russian army, and sent Nikolai Rostov off to find General Kutuzov so as to delay ever having to go into battle at all.

Denisov – is Nikolai’s fellow officer who has a speech impediment (if you have the right translation)

Dolokhov – is the rogue who never ceases to cause a scene whenever he shows up.  You might remember the vodka on the windowsill, the blue coat in the army of grey-coated men, leading a desperate run across the ice, etc.

And here we have Dolokhov in fine form yet again.  If he hasn’t had an affair with Pierre’s wife, Helene, he’s certainly enjoying letting poor old Pierre sufffer about it.  And, finally, as always happens when someone with a long fuse loses their temper – it happens over something small.  Dolokhov takes Pierre’s piece of paper and Pierre loses it completely.

So that is how this chapter winds to a close with a duel about to be fought between the Russian army’s biggest rogue and an incompetent guy who doesn’t know how to use a loaded gun . . .

But the firing will have to wait for tomorrow.  See you then!


3 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 4.4 – Pierre’s Challenge

  1. I think you’re right, Matt, about the characters, and that there’s a lot of them who it don’t matter enough if you happen to forget who they are. The trouble is, though, that sometimes it’s hard to remember whether you’ve forgotten someone because they’re not important or becaue you’ve got a bad memory.

    There’s probably a place for someone to one day write up a REALLY comprehensive War&Peacaedia – explaining all th characters, all theplaces, all the little bits of military history, and Russian culture, that pop up throughout the book. It’s a bit of a shame, really, that you can get plenty of Middle Earth Encyclopaedias, but nothing really comprehensive on War and Peace. Perhaps it’s something that could at least be feasible on the internet. If I had better web-design skills, and lots of time, (neither of which I do have) I’d probably have a shot at it myself. I reckon it’d be a great project. Maybe there’s a government fund for it somewhere?

    Anyway, today’s chapter and the lead up to the duel. I thnk you’re right about the way Pierre’s fuse finally blows – and how typical it is that it happens over something ultimately trivial. I particularly love the descriptions of the surroundigs – after all the noise and revelry of the dinner at the English Club, now we’re suddenly in this desolate, snow shrouded place where two men, with just a nadful of trusted friends at their side, are bout to attempt to kill one another. I don’t know how others feel but, for me, this presentiment of death, and the absurdity of human beings intening to kill each other, is just as ominous here as it was when thousands were threatened by it on the battlefield a few chapters ago.

    Incidentally, I saw a documentary about Napoleon on the History Channel today and was amazed at how much of the detail about the battle of Austerlitz, which Tolstoy included, was in fact true – the fog, the argument between Kutuzov and the Tsar, the French army lighting fires and greeting Napoleon – it all happened. Well, at least it was on telly, so it must be true.

  2. Well, I’m going to persevere with my character list. I’m just keeping it on the forum thread at Wild City right now; might and might not submit it somewhere when I’m through with it.

    I’d like to go over each character, maybe copy/paste a pic or two from the film clips that are online, or from historical material. Dunno’ . . .

    I’m looking forward to re-reading this chapter again today . . . I never was quite sure what happened, how the piece of paper came into it, for instance. Maybe I’ll know better after I’m through with it here . . .

    BTW – today’s the day the ‘aliens’ are supposed to visit – ASHTAR’s ship is to appear in the southern hemisphere and it will emit all these little ships all over the world.

    Unbelieveable? Heh! Heh! Still, I’m looking at the sky from time to time. Ashtar has told his followers that he and his ‘people’ have all the answers to the world’s troubles.

    Another thing happening today . . . it’s election day here in Canada – I’ve already voted for the Green Party (just to be ornery), so I don’t have to go out and do it.

    It’s a lovely fall day – 18 celsius (‘twas 25 yesterday! Like summer!).

    Nice day for working on my War and Peace chapters.


    Here’s the folks I’m adding to my list:

    Bear Huntsman –

    But go with the firm intention of killing your man as quickly and surely as possible, and then all will be right, as our bear huntsman at Kostroma used to tell me. ‘Everyone fears a bear,’ he says, ‘but when you see one your fear’s all gone, and your only thought is not to let him get away!’

    Duelist – notorious duelist

    Rostov was talking merrily to his two friends, one of whom was a dashing hussar and the other a notorious duelist and rake, and every now and then he glanced ironically at Pierre, whose preoccupied, absent-minded, and massive figure was a very noticeable one at the dinner.

    Footman –

    The footman, who was distributing leaflets with Kutuzov’s cantata, laid one before Pierre as one of the principal guests.

    Hussar –

    Rostov was talking merrily to his two friends, one of whom was a dashing hussar and the other a notorious duelist and rake, and every now and then he glanced ironically at Pierre, whose preoccupied, absent-minded, and massive figure was a very noticeable one at the dinner.


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