Reading for Tuesday, 13 January

Here’s another chapter that I’m sure would hit the cutting-room floor in an abridged version, but only helps to build a more realistic period of Russia in 1812.  And add to the suspense.

The Bogutcharovo peasants, and their superstitions are all conspiring to delay the safe escape of Marya from the Bogutcharovo estate . . .

It’s at this point that the actions of this chapter are most interesting.  A few chapters ago, Alpatitch was something of a passive character.  He just did whatever his master told him to without questioning anything.  And in his relationship to Old Bolkonsky, that’s where he sat.

But when dealing with these peasants, Alpatitch steps right up and is much more assertive in dealing with the situation in the village.  And I couldn’t help but be impressed by the little detail of him selflessly giving up the means to his escape to help Marya get away.  I think that’s why war stories are always so interesting – we see how different people react in situations of extreme turmoil.  In Alpatitch’s case, I’d say he acted like a hero.

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2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 10.9 – Peasant Uprising

  1. I guess only Tolstoy would incude a chapter like this, especially immediately after all the intensity of the Old Prince’s death. It’s such a massive gear change. And yet it seems to be so essential to the way Tolstoy tells his story – reminding us of all the different little bits and pieces that go to make up the bigger picture: the vast mosiac, described piece by piece, which we have remarked on several times before.

    And yet while this scene with the peasants might seem in some ways to be kind of incidental to everything else, I think, in reality, it’s extremely important. The peasants, and their rather complex relationship with the Russian aristicocracy, their relationship to the land on which they lived and worked, all played a very critical role in Russia’s history and, while all of that came to much more of a head later in the 19th century, and early in the 20th, certainly no picture of Russia would be complete, even in the early 19th century, without a view of the peasantry. In just a few pages, Tolstoy here gives us such insight into all its complexities and ambiguities, as only Tolstoy could. It’s another reminder, I think, of how economically this verylong book is written.

  2. I never thought of that, really – about Alpatych being so ‘unselfish’ . . . well, of course he has to go back there and get other people too.

    He has a family there himself, doesn’t he?

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