No, it’s not the Marx brothers film – it’s the centre of the Russian aristocratic circle, the opera.
I must admit, it was hard to pay close attention to this chapter, because I was so horrified by the concept of people arriving in the middle of and talking through the overture to the opera!
I know that this happened, from what I’ve heard about in my reading of the history of opera – but still, could we stomach such a thing nowadays?
Anyway, I was a bit calmer when I heard they all shut up when the curtain opened.
But let’s ignore that – again, we just have a myriad of detail. Natasha and Sonya’s clothes, the fussing in the boxes, Boris and Julie and – of course – the one and only Dolokhov.
What I find most interesting is Helene Bezukhov showing up (Pierre’s wife). I’m not sure why (okay, well, I do think I know why, but I won’t say anything today) but there’s something sinister almost about her presence. Putting Natasha and Helene together in a chapter (and this is their first chapter together) is a contrast between Innocence/Righteousness on the one hand and Guilt/Philandering on the other. They’re poles apart . . . and yet Natasha looks at Helene and thinks that she’d be the type of woman a man would want to fall in love with . . .