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.