For 3/2/2021 * OUP Edition to p. 206
(Part 2 Continued)
At the end of October, after the defense of the bridge, it looks like the Russians are doing well. Andrei is sent as a messenger from Kutuzov, the commander, to the Austrian court at Brünn–partly because of the death of a German General named Schmidt. He feels mistreated by the haughty adjutant who lets him into the Palace, as well as by the Minister of War, but is asked to come back for an audience with the emperor the next day.
Andrei stays with a Russian diplomat named Bilibin while in Brünn. He feels at ease in the cultured and refined surroundings that remind him of his own home, but Bilibin, although a great diplomat, is mostly interested in witty conversation (eager to create famous bon mots) and elegant society. He does, however, explain to Andrei why the Austrians do not really care about the good news from the Russian troops: Napoleon is close enough to Vienna that the city is in danger of being taken.
The next day, Andrei joins Bilibin and four of his gentleman friends, including the bumbling Prince Ippolit from the very early chapters, for some casual conversation. Andrei is glad to that Ippolit, who was always a bit too flirtatious with Liza, is a big joke to Bilibin’s friends. He himself is off to see the emperor.
While the emperor asks Andrei only very formal and impersonal questions and apparently doesn’t care much to hear details, he is surprised that various members of the court are extremely friendly, and that Kutuzov and the whole army are being praised and rewarded. But when he returns to Bilibin’s quarters, everyone is packing up to get away, because the French have crossed a bridge over the Danube, having tricked a naive Austrian commander with fake claims to want to establish a truce. Andrei is determined to find the army / his commander. Bilibin clearly thinks he is foolish but also praises him as a hero.
Attempting to get back to Kuzutov, Andrei encounters the chaos of the Russian army in motion. On his way, he protects a woman in a vehicle, a doctor’s wife, and makes sure she has safe passage, even as there is a drunk officer in command on whom he has to pull rank–something he thinks of as “humiliating” (177) — why? He runs into fellow officer Nesvitsky, and finally finds his way to Kuzutov and Bagration. Bagration is supposed to lead his men into battle. Andrei would like to join him, but Kuzutov insists that he come with him in his carriage.
It is November 1 by now, and Kuzutov is trying to figure out how to get out of near-impossible situation vis-a-vis the ever-approaching French army. It so happens that he can buy himself some time, because there are some truce negotiations involving the French commander Murat and the Austrian Count Nostiz. It takes a while until Murat gets a letter delivered from Napoleon that he is not to agree to the truce, and in the meantime, Bagration and his men are quite cheerful, and “not one of them knew or imagined what was in store for him” (183). Query: to what extent does this imply that we are supposed to already know how these battles come out and who is defeated when and where, as one would with Gettysburg or Stalingrad etc? Or is this just a cliff hanger? I certainly have no idea what is “in store” for these soldiers.
Andrei has prevailed with Kuzutov and is allowed to report to Bagration at the city of Grunth. He is given a tour of the camp by the staff-officer, who tries to reprimand an overly jolly officer, Tushin, who has left his post in stockinged feet. Andrei rides on without the staff-officer when they are within view of the French line, and notices that the troops are more orderly here. But he also witnesses a soldier being beaten for theft (a scene we briefly discussed last week, before we had read it, because it contrasts with the slap-on-the-wrist treatment for officers committing theft that Nikolai was so unhappy with earlier). He also overhears Dolokhov confronting a French soldier where the lines almost converge, arguing with him in French and then cussing him out in “soldier’s Russian,” impressing his foot soldier comrades.
Eventually, Andrei gets to an overview where he can see the French line and the troop movement clearly, and he overhears Tushin, the captain who had earlier been in stockings, as he comes out of a shed with an officer and others (presumably there has been drinking going on) just as the French cannonade begins.
Andrei can see the French troops moving, apparently because Murat has finally received the letter from Napoleon and is now attacking the Russians. Everyone is excited “It has begun! Here it is” (190, 191) on everyone’s face, even the usually unmoved face of Bagration–except that there is a dumb civilian observer who doesn’t know what is going on. The first Cossack is shot; Tushin, who is in charge of the artillery, decides to set fire to the village Schöngrabern; Bagration seems to be mostly listening to reports and not really give any orders. It calms everyone (but I am not sure whether he is supposed to be a good or a bad commander.
Andrei continues to observe while the bullets are flying (making “a pleasant humming and whistling” sound??? 194) and the wounded pile up. Bagration seems to become more decisive in his commands and soldiers seem to be more disciplined in their marching. Eventually the troops rush into battle.
Tushin and his artillery battery are at the center of the battle, while the right flank (which is where I think we were with Andrei just now?) retreats with the help of the chasserurs. But there is chaotic infighting on the left flank, with two commanders pursuing different goals so that when the battle cry is finally sounded, people barely have time to get ready to fight. Nikolai is part of the group and excited to be in battle, but he gets shot off his horse. He is not quite sure what has happened, and neither are we–it’s clear that he is wounded and confused–maybe there is a broken hand or arm, and he is in shock? But we share his point of view and confusion until he crawls into some bushes where Russian sharpshooters are hiding.
The general in charge of this infantry regiment realizes that things are not going well; however, Timokhin’s company, including Dolokhov, is fighting the French heroically in hand-to-hand combat. Dolokhov is bragging about trophies taken off a French officer even though wounded, and clearly hopes to be promoted again.
Meanwhile, Tushin’s battery station is in complete chaos, there are dead and wounded men, and Tushin’s inner state is described as “feverish delirium or drunkenness” as he is operating the gun. This is the point at which Andrei, himself almost giving in to fear and panic, arrives with the command for all to retreat. Tushin is grateful to Andrei and moved to tears as Andrei rides off.