Now here’s a gem of a chapter that I just don’t remember at all from reading last time.  After having been included as only a minor character for so long in the book, Tolstoy now shines the spotlight on Julia Karagina and her courtship by Boris Drubetskoy.

While Boris doesn’t have the over-the-top flair of, say, Dolokhov (and where’s he disappeared to?  It feels like he should make a reappearance . . .), nonetheless, his calculating style is highly amusing to read about – unless you’re a die-hard romantic.

I couldn’t help but think of Julie and Boris as being a kind of early 19th-century goths.  Writing poems about death and melancholy, and getting a perverse joy out of the whole thing.

And here’s Boris – torn between knowing that he just has to say the word, and “her Penza estates and her Nizhnigorod forests” will all be is and a slight twinge of annoyance that he’ll be marrying a girl that he doesn’t love.  We also see Anna Mihalovna (his mother) at work here as well, and realise that he’s just a chip off the old block . . .

It’s a funny chapter – if someone like Natasha or Princess Marya was being courted in this fashion, we’d be horrified and want to yell, “No, get away!” – but because we’re not particularly attracted to Julie Karagina, and the way Tolstoy spins the tale, I couldn’t help but get a chuckle out of this chapter.

3 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 8.5 – An Interlude of Black Comedy

  1. Unlike you, Matt, this is actually a chapter which I for some reason remember really well from my first read. But I think the first time I read it, I was not quite as mindful of what an opportunist Boris is, as I am now – and so that makes him an even more repulsive character, knowing the depths he will descend to just to serve his own interests. Not that I’ve got Julie Karagin’s picture on my wall either, mind you.

    I think you’re description of them as a pair of 19th century goths fits perfectly. I loved the bit where Boris thinks he might actually be about to be pipped at the post by Anatole Kuragin, and begins to worry that he may have spent this whole month being gloomy for absolutely no reason at all.

    It really is a funny chapter – and I certainly got a chuckle out of it too – but, still, it’s pretty shocking that marriages like that really did (and undoubtedly still do) happen all the time, where the question of love is just not part of the equation at all.

  2. Oh, Dolokhov’s around, working in the background kinda’ thing . . . and your old pal ‘Ratbag’ . . . he’ll be walking onto the scene again.

    Those two are a pair and a half, as characters . . . not exactly your average ‘pillars of the community’, eh?

  3. There were no new characters here – I now have a total of 652 – I’ve added some, ‘cause I found some that I missed while going through other parts of the book.

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