Reading for Monday, 26 January

And now we have the brief return of Boris and even Dolohov, as they all meet Kutuzov.  Even on the eve of a massive battle and with a full-scale invasion of Russia, Boris is still seeking to position himself to get the best promotions.  I’ve never quite understood how you could still think about promotions when your country is invaded.  After all, if you all get captured, and you’ve got no country, your promotions don’t mean much at all . . .

Anyway, it gives us an insight into the rivalry between Kutuzov and Bennigsen, the head commanding generals.  (Bennigsen we shall meet in the new chapter.)

But then Dolohov shows up – and in true history-repeating-itself fashion – has been demoted to the ranks and is trying to make up for it by undertaking life-threatening actions in the war to get promoted.  What a crazy life he must lead.

For me, the most interesting passage in this chapter was when Dolohov apologises to Pierre “with tears in his eyes”.  Is he really sorry for what happened in the past? Or is he just bunging it on?

Hard to tell with Dolohov, and Tolstoy deliberately doesn’t give us much further information, nor does he tell us whether Pierre accepts the apology.  It is just another one of the striking vignettes that make up the overall picture of this battle.

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3 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 10.22 – Boris and Dolohov

  1. I really do like these little vignettes we get every now and then from Tolstoy where, in the midst of a giant arc of a tale – in this case the lead up to Borodino – we get a sudden little diversion, which is not in the least bit needed to tell the story, but is worth including simnply because that’s how life is – something we noted in a completely different way a couple of chapters ago, when Pierre was so astonished at people, who may well be about to die, laughing at his hat.

    But here, it’s the same theme in a different key – with Boris and Dolokhov appearing out of the blue, reminding us (and Pierre) that people go on as they always do: Boris with his never-ending opportunism, Dolokhov always trying to patch up the mess his life creates.

    I like the way Tolstoy unexpectedly brings us back to old characters, too, because it just helps hold everything together – a massive feat in a book as mammoth as this with … er … how many characters are we up to now, Carly?

  2. It’s my bet that Dolokhov is ‘sucking around’ . . . he’s aware that Pierre’s putting some money into this thing and would have a lot of influence on Kutuzov . . .
    Pierre could ask Kutuzov to move Dolokhov along and his request might be granted.

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