Saturday, February 27, 2010

Volume I, Book II, Chapter VIII

We're definitely in the war. It's all very exciting but boils down to this - Rostov's first day under fire. The Russians (our hussars, our cossacks), are in a river valley and the French are approaching. Orders are given to burn the bridge from yesterday. There is confusion about the order, and Zherkov has shown up again to give it. Nikolai ends up riding next to Bogdanych, and worrying about their earlier encounter. There is a German accented Colonel who is slow to speak and a little passive aggressive not wanting to follow orders he hasn't explicitly been given, or that aren't given correctly. So there are a lot of other things going on. Suffice it to say, they blow up the bridge, and there are two injuries and one casualty. It ends with the colonel joyfully saying that one soldier was "killed on the spot" with obvious joy.

I will add to this tomorrow I'm sure when I'm more awake. Tired at the moment, but there's a beautiful paragraph at the beginning of the chapter describing the feeling of going into battle.

And here it is:

"One step beyond that line, reminiscent of the line separating the linving from the dea, and it's the unkown, suffeing and deat. And what is there? who is there? there, beyond this filed, and the tree, and the roof lit by the sun? No one knows and you would like to know; and you're afraid to cross that line, and would like to cross it; and you know that sooner ot later you will have to corss it and find out what is there on the other side of that line, as you will inevitably find out what is there on the other side of death. And you're strong, healthy, cheerful and excited, and surrounded by people just as strong and excitedly animated." So if he does not think it, every man feels how finds himself within sight of an enemy, and this feeling gives a particular brilliance and joyful sharpness of impression to everything that happens in those moments.

I love that he finds a way to go into 2nd person - it's such a shift in tone and immediacy. It just struck me - I was actually confused and thrown for a second, and then it tracked that he was in the head of the soldier. I can't imagine that rush, but it seems like he has some experience of it. And it definitely animates the writing in this section - sharp impressions.

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