Reading for Tuesday 14/10/08

The meeting in this chapter between Andrei and Arakcheev is one of those chapters that is perhaps a bit more obscure to the ordinary reader.  From what I can make out from my endnotes, Arakcheev was a real character, Tolstoy wasn’t really that keen on his politics, and so used this fictional meeting as a chance to poke some fun at him.

I’d probably have to know a bit more about Russian history to get the exact subtleties of this meeting.  But I think what is far more amusing is that Andrei takes all this bad treatment in his stride (not to mention the snub from the Tsar), when previously he would have gone out in a black mood and strolled the streets of Petersburg brooding on the futility of it all.  So for those who can’t quite get the satire, I think it definitely hints at a chance in the air for Andrei.  (By the way, the other characters are around somewhere – I’m just not sure how long before they show back up again . . . But Andrei seems to be the particular focus at the moment.)


4 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 6.4 – Arakcheev

  1. I think yu’re right Matt – knowing a bit about Russian political history really does help here. I know a little of Russia’s history, but my starting point in my knowledge is the Revolution, so I tend to understand everything lse mainly in the context of that.

    In any event, I thought this Chapter was just a splendid portrayal of that strange world of politics generally – the image of the waiting room is pure magic and, from my own experience having worked in those circles for a few years a few years ago, things haven’t changed one bit: everyone divided into the “significant” and the “insignificant”, the first group trying to pretend that they’re nonchalant about everything, but the second group feeling deferential and yet everyone, in reality, just plain scared.

    But, however much people might get overawed or overexcited in that whole environment of Ministers and politics, it’s worth keeping in mind what Tolstoy pointed out to us only a few chapters ago, and that is that the lives of ordinary people just go on as always, without any regard to what is or isn’t happening in the supposedly rarefied world of politics. That’s not to say that what happens politically isn’t relevant to the everyday lives of everyday people, but certainly most people don’t feel its relevance, much less feel engaged with it.

    Anyway – better stop there, or I will go on forever!!

  2. It’s always interesting to watch what people do in waiting rooms, especially if they don’t see you watching – heh! Heh!

    Here are the people being added to my character count:

    Kochubey –

    Now those vague liberal dreams with which the Emperor Alexander had ascended the throne, and which he had tried to put into effect with the aid of his associates, Czartoryski, Novosiltsev, Kochubey, and Strogonov- whom he himself in jest had called his Comite de salut public- were taking shape and being realized.

    Speranski –

    It was the time when the youthful Speranski was at the zenith of his fame and his reforms were being pushed forward with the greatest energy.

    Now all these men were replaced by Speranski on the civil side, and Arakcheev on the military.


  3. And another one –

    Field Marshal –

    He mentioned what he had written to an old field marshal, a friend of his father’s.

    Officer –

    Then suddenly the grating sound of a harsh voice was heard from the other side of the door, and the officer- with pale face and trembling lips- came out and passed through the waiting room, clutching his head.

    Officer on Duty –

    After this Prince Andrew was conducted to the door and the officer on duty said in a whisper, “To the right, at the window.”


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