W& P Week 32: Three/Two/17

For 8/17/2021 (p. 804)

Book Three, Part 2 continued

Chapter 6

Scene: Petersburgh, in the salons

In Petersburgh, life continues as before, but the two leading salons, Anna Pavlovna’s and Hélène’s, have different scripts for how the war is considered: Anna’s is pro-Russian and condemns Napoleon; Hélène’s is downplaying the French aggression and Napoleon’s attempts at negotiation are praised. Prince Vasili, who attends both, sometimes gets his opinions confused and is caught saying something condemning about Kutuzov, pooh-poohing the idea that he could become the new commander in chief. When Kutuzov is appointed, he turns completely and praises him to the skies.

Chapter 7

Scene: With Napoleon’s troops after Smolensk, mid-August

Napoleon, initially incognito, interviews a Cossack prisoner who is very happy to talk about what he knows about the Russian troops. Tolstoy pulls a “what REALLY happened” as he transforms a French source. The Cossack is Lavrushka, a serf that was given to Nikolai by Denisov, and although he pretends not to recognize Napoleon, he actually knows very well who he is talking to and has to feign surprise when he is being told he is talking to the emperor himself. He is being let go and returns to Rostov’s service at Yankovo (this thread continues seamlessly in Ch. 13)

Chapter 8

Scene: Bogucharovo (village / Andrei’s estate)

Back to what actually happened to Marya and her father after Alpatych came back from Smolensk in August: Her father was determined to stay at Bald Hills, and she sent little Nikolai on to Bogucharovo and then on to Moscow, but stayed behind with her father. Shortly after, he suffers a debilitating stroke and they do leave for Bogucharovo. The prince is clearly dying and is in no state to be moved; Princess Marya catches herself wishing he would die; she is getting ready to leave on August 15. Finally, after a night of not daring to go into his bedroom, she has a deathbed conversation with him where he thanks her for all she has done for him and asks for her forgiveness, and she is filled with love for him and remorse for wishing for his death. When he dies shortly thereafter (still Aug 15), she is devastated; a hasty funeral is arranged as everyone is also getting ready to leave. Bogucharovo is between the two armies’ positions, each about 10 miles away in opposite directions (cf. 784).

Chapter 9

The narrator explains the peculiar “boorishness” and independence of the relatively wealthy villagers at Bogucharovo and their decision to not leave but await the French, who have promised that no harm will come to them and their possessions. The village elder, Dron, who has been on good terms with the Bolkonskys and with Alpatych for over 20 years, is obviously torn as he refuses, but doesn’t really wish to refuse, Alpatych’s order to get carts and horses from the village ready to move the princess and her household and possessions to Moscow (even as they themselves do not want to go).

Chapter 10

Princess Marya is completely absorbed in her grief and does not really want to leave at all, until M’elle Bourienne comes with a letter from the French general Rameau, promising their safety if they stay, and suggests that they do rather than risk exposure to angry peasants and looting soldiers en route to Moscow. At that point, Marya channels her father’s and brother’s attitude and decides that have to leave and refuse to be basically French prisoners. But when she summons Dron to requisition horses, he says there are none and the peasants are ruined and starving. Marya is confused; she offers supplies (“the landlord’s grain”), but Dron, completely torn, just asks to be discharged.

Chapter 11

Marya’s confusion grows as she is being asked to meet with the villagers (this is all Aug 16); she tells them that they should take all the grain “so that you may not suffer want” and go with her to Moscow. When they refuse, she is puzzled: why do they not want to flee with her? And why don’t they look her in the face? She orders Dron to get her transportation and retires to her quarters.

Chapter 12

Marya spends a restless, grief-stricken night, rehashing her father’s last days, and feeling guilty about not going into her father’s room the night before his death, when he needed her.

Chapter 13

The next day (August 17), Nikolai Rostov and his fellow officer Ilyin, with Lavrushka and a hussar orderly, ride into Bogucharovo to look for hay for the horses, and encounter drunk villagers (with no idea that the estate here is the Bolgonskys). They run into Alpatych, who explains that the peasants refuse to leave and that they refuse to let the Princess go as well. Nikolai goes to see her, is impressed by her “gentleness and nobility” and with her helplessness and immediately promises her safe passage (787).

Chapter 14

Nikolai is very angry and in that anger is able to intimidate and boss around the villagers, completely ignoring any decisions the Elders have made. He orders several, including Dron, to be tied up, and the carts and horses are now forthcoming and getting packed up (Dron, ordered untied by Marya, is in charge of the logistics again.) Nikolai accompanies the convoy from Bogucharovo for 8 miles until a road to Moscow under Russian control offers safety. She is deeply grateful, he is modest; she thinks she’s in love with him, while it has struck him that he might marry her (but he is not sure how to ditch Sonya). From the footnotes: this marriage would ONLY be possible because Natasha and Andrei split up. Apparently, laws of consanguinity under Russian Orthodox rules say that brothers- and sisters-in law cannot marry. Whoa.

Chapter 15

Scene: Tsarevo-Zaymishche (Russian headquarters)

On the same day (August 17), Andrei arrives at the Russian headquarters. He has been sent for by Kutuzov, who has recently been made commander in chief and is about to arrive at headquarters. As he waits for Kutuzov, he makes Denisov’s acquaintance (YAY DENISOV IS BACK!), who is also waiting (unasked) for Kutuzov because he thinks he can cut the French lines of communication with “guewilla warfare” (793) in an area he knows extremely well. Kutuzov listens patiently to him, and even more so to Andrei, of whose father’s death he is now hearing. Andrei is observing Kutuzov closely, concluding that he despises cleverness and strategy and instead goes with experience and patience.

Chapter 16

Andrei refuses a post on Kutuzov’s staff, because he wants to stay with his regiment. Kutuzov completely understands and just tells him that he should come directly to him with any problem or concern. There are already too many advisors and “men are needed” (798). Andrei, like many other Russians, feels reassured that Kutuzov is the right man to be commander-in-chief, given his patience, his “absence of all personal motive” (799), and his very Russian character.

Chapter 17

Scene: Moscow’s aristocracy

Moscow’s upper echelon moves about as if nothing has happened and parties on (great passage on p.800 that works for climate change, too), except that they are very enthused about Moscow’s boisterous anti-French burghers (Karpushka Chigirin is the example) and are trying to be very anti-French by dinging each other for speaking French and using Gallicisms. At a party before leaving Moscow, Julie Drubetskaya is teasing one of her guests about making fun of Pierre when Pierre himself shows up and is making fun of himself as well–while also trying to defend the Rostovs against her gossip and denying that he has been Natasha’s “knight.” Julie also offers a romanticized retelling of Nikolai’s “knightly” rescue of Marya Bolkonskaya, who has just arrived in Moscow, and says in French that she is clearly a bit in love with the young man (because “how could one say that in Russian?” 804).

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