Hi all,

I know this is very naughty of me and not really in keeping with the one chapter a day thing, but I thought – in the interests of getting us back up to date – I’d do one post on two chapters.

Chapter 5.15 really just sets the scene of how hard the life has now become in the Russian army out in Prussia.  So hungry they’re digging up roots to eat that make them feel ill, the horrible conditions, etc.

I should comment more on that, but I’ll quickly move on to 5.16, which is Denisov’s “theft” of the much-needed supplies for the army.  Obviously, the big part of the chapter is Denisov’s tale where he gets ordered to go to the commissariat department and explain why he took the supplies.  He goes round and finds out that it was Telyanin who had been denying him the supplies and proceeds to beat the living harry out of him.

Now this was really where the beauty of reading Tolstoy slowly is starting to pay off.  At first, I couldn’t remember for the life of me who Telyanin was.  If I’d been reading this book at a regular pace, I would have just said, “Oh well,” and kept reading.

But then it came back to me – and forgive me if I’m the only one who had this “ah ha” moment and the rest of you all knew – Telyanin is the officer, right back in Book 2, who stole Denisov’s purse.

Remember, Nikolai Rostov set out to catch him, and when he found out that the guy was dirt poor, he took pity on him and let him keep the money?

So all of a sudden, I understood Denisov’s rage.  Here they are – been starved of supplies for two weeks.  He goes round to find out why.  And there is Telyanin – the thief – in charge, and denying him of supplies.  He may have got away with it once, but not twice . . .

So, yeah, I quite understand why it all came down to fisticuffs . . . both rather humorous and a reminder of how life turns full circle.

I love epic novels when they double back on themselves like this! It just makes the patience in reading them all pay off.

See you all tomorrow.

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3 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 5.15-5.16 – Hard Times & Denisov’s Theft

  1. Well, Matt, thanks for the enlightenment re Telyannin. I knew I knew him from somewhere, and I somehow figured out that he was someone who Rostov had had a run in with at some stage, but I’d forgotten that it was over Denisov’s money – which, as you point out, makes so much more sense.

    As for doing two chapters at once- well, of course that’s an utter travesty, but I’m sure we’ll all survive. The two chapters, after all, did go very well together – and, in fact, reading them together in a way intensifies what I felt, particularly in reading 5.15 – that is, the way so many seemingly contradictory things are all brought together as part of the one picture: in this case, of life in the army, where we see such a tangled mix of loyalty, betrayal, stability, chaos, a sense of belonging, ravenous hunger, filthy conditions – all mixed together in those hideous dugouts that they all call home.

    But I also found particularly the second of these two Chapters a little disturbing – I think because of the rather unflattering picture it gave of Denisov and, through him, of the whole situation in the army, even taking into account his history with Telyannin. The men are stealing food from one another – not from the enemy, but from their comrades.

    I think it says something about the whole culture of these men. There is an unmistakeable, and quite wonderful, camaraderie between them at one level, but it only goes so far – and anyone outside the circle, whether it be the French or just another infantry, is the enemy. The circle undoubtedly expands when they’re all together, fighting Napoleon’s troops on the battlefield – but at other times, the circle of loyalty is much smaller.

    I don’t know about others – but I just found it to be an unpleasant, even ugly, view of human (or at least male) relationships.

    By the way, Matt, how is the Chamber Music Festival coming along? I see ABC FM are having their Top 100 Chamber music countdown at the moment – something which I should have voted in. I’m not sure what I would have picked as my favourite though – possibly Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time; but Beethoven’s B Flat Major Quartet (opus 130) in its original version with the Große Fuge as the final movement, and Schubert’s Quintet in C, and possibly Schönberg´s Verklärte Nacht, would have all been close contenders as well. Oh and Shostakovich’s Piano Trio, of course. And Schubert’s Tod und das Mädchen Quartet. And maybe even the original version of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll. Now I’m beginning to remember why I didn’t vote!!

  2. Hi Ian,

    Two quick comments:

    1) You’re quite right about the circles. That’s what was the interesting thing about 5.15 that I didn’t get to comment on. That amusing sidenote that Nikolai couldn’t cope with life in the real world, where he had to make decisions and deal with all sorts of people. Instead, in the regiment, where everybody was told what to do – he was quite comfortable. But it only extended as far as that particular circle.

    It’s very true to life. There are some people who will never follow the crowd and who hate taking orders. And then there are others who are quite comfortable to be in a position where they’re told what to do amongst a certain crowd of people and they like it that way precisely because it takes the thinking out of life.

    I think I’d hate to be in the army . . .

    2) The Chamber Music Festival should be good, and hopefully people will want to come along after the countdown. Even though Musica Viva is putting on the final concert, they kept it hush-hush in the office what the final five were, so I have no idea of what it would be. There’s plenty of people who wanted it to be Death and the Maiden, though, so if you’d cast that vote, they would have loved you, Ian.

    My own thought is that I can’t see how the Trout Quintet will fail to win because a) it’s just ridiculously popular and b) you don’t have to remember an opus number to vote for it. (Far more tricky than those Beethoven string quartets, where you have to remember things like op 59 no 2, etc.

    But, the vote I cast myself, was for the one and only Beethoven string quartet op 132. While it would be sad if all the chamber music in the world were destroyed in a fire somewhere, if somebody could rush in and save the op 132 (or at very least the Heiliger Dankgesang movement). I can only describe that movement as the most moving and spiritual piece of string quartet writing ever composed.

  3. I don’t have that much to say – everything’s been said about these two chapters. Here are the characters I’ll be adding to my count:

    Adjutant of the Regiment –

    But at noon the adjutant of the regiment came into Rostov’s and Denisov’s dugout with a grave and serious face and regretfully showed them a paper addressed to Major Denisov from the regimental commander in which inquiries were made about yesterday’s occurrence.

    Alesha the Sly –

    As usual, in their spare time, they lit bonfires, steamed themselves before them naked; smoked, picked out and baked sprouting rotten potatoes, told and listened to stories of Potemkin’s and Suvorov’s campaigns, or to legends of Alesha the Sly, or the priest’s laborer Mikolka.

    Cadet –

    The weather had cleared up, and near the next hut two officers and a cadet were playing svayka, laughing as they threw their missiles which buried themselves in the soft mud.

    Canteenkeeper –

    The canteenkeeper gave one credit, one’s pay came every four months, there was nothing to think out or decide, you had only to do nothing that was considered bad in the Pavlograd regiment and, when given an order, to do what was clearly, distinctly, and definitely ordered- and all would be well.

    Dementyev –

    When he saw the first hussar with the unbuttoned uniform of his regiment, when he recognized red-haired Dementyev and saw the picket ropes of the roan horses, when Lavrushka gleefully shouted to his master, “The count has come!” and Denisov, who had been asleep on his bed, ran all disheveled out of the mud hut to embrace him, and the officers collected round to greet the new arrival, Rostov experienced the same feeling his mother, his father, and his sister had embraced him, and tears of joy choked him so that he could not speak.

    Doctor – Regimental Doctor –

    The regimental doctor, when he came, said it was absolutely necessary to bleed Denisov.

    French Sharpshooter –

    A bullet fired by a French sharpshooter hit him in the fleshy part of his leg.

    Head Chief –

    Vewy well, so out comes their head chief- also took it into his head to lecture me: ‘It’s wobbewy!’- ‘Wobbewy,’ I say, ‘is not done by man who seizes pwovisions to feed his soldiers, but by him who takes them to fill his own pockets!’

    Hussar –

    When he saw the first hussar with the unbuttoned uniform of his regiment, when he recognized red-haired Dementyev and saw the picket ropes of the roan horses, when Lavrushka gleefully shouted to his master, “The count has come!” and Denisov, who had been asleep on his bed, ran all disheveled out of the mud hut to embrace him, and the officers collected round to greet the new arrival, Rostov experienced the same feeling his mother, his father, and his sister had embraced him, and tears of joy choked him so that he could not speak.

    Infantry Officers –

    A little behind the hussars came Denisov, accompanied by two infantry officers with whom he was talking.

    Mikolka –

    As usual, in their spare time, they lit bonfires, steamed themselves before them naked; smoked, picked out and baked sprouting rotten potatoes, told and listened to stories of Potemkin’s and Suvorov’s campaigns, or to legends of Alesha the Sly, or the priest’s laborer Mikolka.

    Officer –

    One of his comrades, talking of women, began chaffing Rostov, saying that he was more wily than any of them and that it would not be a bad thing if he introduced to them the pretty Polish girl he had saved. Rostov took the joke as an insult, flared up, and said such unpleasant things to the officer that it was all Denisov could do to prevent a duel.

    Officers (2) –

    The weather had cleared up, and near the next hut two officers and a cadet were playing svayka, laughing as they threw their missiles which buried themselves in the soft mud.

    Old Pole

    Old Pole’s Daughter

    Old Pole’s Infant

    On one of his foraging expeditions, in a deserted and ruined village to which he had come in search of provisions, Rostov found a family consisting of an old Pole and his daughter with an infant in arms.

    Oudinot – Marshal Oudinot –

    Several times parts of the Pavlograd regiment had exchanged shots with the enemy, had taken prisoners, and once had even captured Marshal Oudinot’s carriages.

    Regimental Commander –

    But at noon the adjutant of the regiment came into Rostov’s and Denisov’s dugout with a grave and serious face and regretfully showed them a paper addressed to Major Denisov from the regimental commander in which inquiries were made about yesterday’s occurrence.

    Topcheenko –

    Rostov moved to the window to see whom he was speaking to, and saw the quartermaster, Topcheenko.

    515

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