This chapter is very sad.  Old Bolkonsky, now in the direct line of march of the invading French troops, cannot bring himself to admit that the French have invaded and that the Russians are losing.

The denial is so bad, it’s almost the onset of dementia, and Marya, with her innocence, doesn’t realise the situation either.

You hear tales of old folks who refuse to go to retirement villages and give up their independence, but become very difficult to live with.  This would be the time to suggest a retirement village – but let’s face it – the old Prince would never go.

2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 10.2 – In Denial

  1. Yes, sad it certainly is – and almost horrific, too. I feel that Tolstoy has written this chapter, and this portrayal of the Old Prince’s decline, with a deliberate ambiguity: is the Old Prince becoming senile, or is he just refusing to acknowledge what he does not want to believe is happening? It’s probably both – but the result is tragic umabiguously tragic, however crazy and obnoxious he might have already been: this man whose world is now darkening around in him, in every sense.

    The other thing I found kind of clever in this chapter was the reappearance of Marya letters from Julie. Julie’s letters had alays been entirely in French before – something which the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation maintains, with the French translated into English in the footnotes – but now her letter is in Russian (well, English in the translation, of course!). It’s just a really effective way of showing this massive grea-shift which all of the French-speaking Russian aristocracy felt themselves bound to make, in their patriotism for the Fatherland, and in ther disdain for the French, who, ever since the time of Peter the Great, and the building of Petersburg, they had tried so hard to emulate.

    By the way, I thought Bondarchuk, in his wonderful movie of War and Peace, did a superb job of showing this decline of Old Prince Bolkonsky – this whole scene is presented in the film with such grim darkness that we (or at least I) can’t help but feel drawn his nightmare ourselves.

  2. You don’t know whether to keep hating this stupid old man or not . . . he’s just so sick in his mind, you cannot find the heart to hate him anymore.

    I, for one, am looking forward to his demise.

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