In this chapter, astonishingly, we continue the tale of Old Bolkonsky, as he goes about sending his servants on errands and trying to decide where to sleep.  And, finally, as he is dropping off to sleep, he knows there’s something he needs to think about in that letter . . .

If he’d read the letter and been terrified and worried, that I think would have been a powerful piece of writing from Tolstoy.

But it’s sheer genius to have his mind turn back to him as “a young general, without one wrinkle on his brow”.  Another brilliant, brilliant chapter.

6 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 10.3 – The Realisation

  1. Why would his cot rock back and forth? Were there earth tremors in that area of Russia around that time? Or would it have been he himself, who was rocking the bed?

    Just a thought . . .

    You know, I really hoped that old fart was croak right there and then.

    What wretched thoughts I have when I rise early; it’s 5:20 am here in Toronto – a Wednesday morning. We’ve just had a snowfall and the plow has been around. Any reason they can’t do ‘supermarket parking lots’ at that hour? Then do apartment building lots around six or so?

    Guess not.

  2. Well, I don’t think I can feel quite so eager to see Old Prince Bolkonsky shuffle off this mortal coil as you, Carly. I certainly agree that he has been a pretty obnoxious old thing – but always, when it’s Tolstoy telling the story, we get a real glimpse into the humanity – and even the beauty – that is always there, somewhere, admist all the ugliness. We see it in this chapter, as you point out, Matt, in this glimpse back to his earlier life where we are reminded that he, too, was once a young and vibrant person. The Old Prince has never, in my view, been bad person – just more of an old square peg with no place in a world of new round holes. From the time we first met him, we have, I think, been presented with a man who not only belongs to a time that hs now gone but who also, more to the point, doesn’t belong where he now is. And in this chapter, I feel, this is driven home with such bitter pathos, as we see the Old Prince roaming reslessly through the house, unable to find anywhere to rest and be at peace. It seems like a metaphor for his life. I would hate to have to live with him – but, in this chapter, I cannot help but feel for him.

  3. Oh, there’s a reason you want him around?
    What’s nice about him?

    I’d like to see him gone, so that Marya can finally live the life she’s entitled to . . . a normal life, where she can go out. As long as that old crow is alive, she can’ go anywhere. She can’t do anything with her life.
    I do not have any feeling for that character; he’s an old creep – I cannot find a thing to like about him.

    Perhaps had you lived in that time, in that place, within that family, you yourself, being a man, would not be stifled.

    But would you like to know that your sister is being choked off from life like that?

    Sorry – I look forward to his last breath. I know Tolstoy is going to make us feel sorry for him when we come to that part, but I’m not going to be too impressed by it.

  4. Don’t get me wrong Carly – I don’t for a moment think I would actually want to live with him, nor that I wouldn’t feel stifled by him. I guess I’m commenting more on Tolstoy’s writing than on the Old Prince – the way he humanises all his characters so, at least for me, there seems to be some worth or value within them. In a way, I feel we’ve seen glimpses of this all along with the Old Prince – such as his hidden, but deeply felt, anguish at the death of Lisa and now at this view of him as someone who was once so full of life and is now sinking deeper and deeper into confusion, despair and fear. So, while I certainly don’t want Old Prince Bolkonsky as my best buddy, I guess I’d love to have Tolstoy write my obituary!!

  5. I guess it just shows the strength of the characterisation that Old Bolkonsky raises such emotion in us. I am kind of with Ian – I don’t like the guy at all, and there’s no excuse for his behavour – but at the same time, Tolstoy reminds us that he’s a three-dimensional human who became more and more bitter and twisted, not a two-dimensional monster.

  6. The only real goodness I saw in him was when Andrei told him that if Lise had a son, he wanted him to keep him in the household, if anything happened to him.
    That was when the old man showed surprise and displeasure with his son – he didn’t approve of the way Andrei wanted to take the child away from its mother.
    At that time, I didn’t like Andrei much either.

    Well, that’s what a book discussion’s all about – people see things differently.

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