This is one chapter that I’ve always been able to remember really clearly from the first time I read the book. I think if, for nothing else, it’s the first example of swearing in the whole book (or at least in the translation I have).
What’s more, it comes from someone as important as Kutuzov! But his line “Who asked them to come here?” followed by his swearing and his crying later, really sums up that this was had been a lot more emotional for him than any of us realised.
I thought it was a great moment – but I understand also, it has given translators a headache from there on in, because I think they’re trying to translate a word that is blanked out in Russian into something that is blanked out in English . . .
I must admit, if I’m checking out a translation of War and Peace, I tend to flick to this chapter to see how they handle it. I’m not saying I’m looking for swear words, but some of the earlier translators had a tendency to tone down the feeling of this chapter to be a bit more polite to their readers. The problem with that is, you miss the strength of emotion that Kutuzov is feeling, especially in light of viewing the pale, emaciated captives that they have captured.