Up until now, I’ve remembered most of these chapters from last time I read War and Peace or they’ve come back to me as I read them.

But for the life of me, I cannot remember this incident with Denisov in the hospital and Nikolai going to visit him at all.

Maybe I blocked them out . . . by far, this is one of the most horrific of the war chapters we’ve encountered yet.

While the death on the battlefield was a horrific thing, the suffering of these soldiers in the rotting hospital in Prussia is something else entirely.  It had been hinted a couple of chapters before, that more men were dying in the hospital than in the battlefield, but now Tolstoy shows us why that is so.  I don’t need to say much about it, the chapter (all laid out in minute Tolstoy detail) is quite expressive enough.  But it does remind us – for a soldier in those days, it wasn’t just the enemy that was dangerous.


2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 5.17 – The Hospital

  1. I’m pretty sure that I do remember this Chapter from my first read – especially the scene at the end where the dead soldier has been lying there, and no one has been able to move him away. But, yes, it’s a hideous, ugly picture that is painted here. And do you notice how we are slowly drawn into its ugliness – first by the description of the dismal, delapidated village littered with drunk and wounded soldiers, then the hospital, old and falling to pieces, then the bizarre conversation between Nikolai and the doctor and then all those details about the sick and dying and dead patients. It’s like a cesspool of ugliness and horror, into which Tolstoy takes us more and more deeply – but always in his disarmingly matter-of-fact descriptions. Nothing is embellished or overstated. And yet we are shaken to the core by it. That’s Tolstoy for you!

  2. A very sad passage indeed.

    Here are the people I’m adding to my count:

    Commissariat Soldier – Hospital Orderly –

    Just then a commissariat soldier, a hospital orderly, came in from the next room, marching stiffly, and drew up in front of Rostov.

    Dead Soldier at Hospital –

    His neighbor on the other side, who lay motionless some distance from him with his head thrown back, was a young soldier with a snub nose. His pale waxen face was still freckled and his eyes were rolled back. Rostov looked at the young soldier and a cold chill ran down his back.

    Makar Alexeevich –

    “Makar Alexeevich has the list,” answered the assistant. “But if you’ll step into the officers’ wards you’ll see for yourself,” he added, turning to Rostov.

    Man on Crutches at Hospital –

    A door opened to the right, and an emaciated sallow man on crutches, barefoot and in underclothing, limped out and, leaning against the doorpost, looked with glittering envious eyes at those who were passing.

    Old Soldier at Hospital –

    Close to the corner, on an overcoat, sat an old, unshaven, gray-bearded soldier as thin as a skeleton, with a stern sallow face and eyes intently fixed on Rostov.

    Russian Army Doctor –

    On the stairs he met a Russian army doctor smoking a cigar.

    Russian Doctor’s Assistant – Makeev –

    The doctor was followed by a Russian assistant. Makeev.

    Sick Cossack at Hospital –

    Just before him, almost across the middle of the passage on the bare floor, lay a sick man, probably a Cossack to judge by the cut of his hair.


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