Sunday, February 28, 2010

Volume I, Book II, Chapter IX

Bonaparte's army is defeating the Russian Austrian forced. On October 30th, Kuzutov defeats the French, and actually makes them retreat, after two weeks of retreating themselves.

And who gets to deliver this news in BrĂ¼nn to the Minister of War? None other than our heroic Prince Andrei. He has been serving under Austrian General Schmidt, who is killed in the battle. Andrei's horse was shot out from him and he was slightly grazed by a bullet, so he gets to be a messenger, which is an important step and acknowledgement. He spends the trip dreaming of the battle, and how happy it made him. He stops and sees some wounded soldiers on a transport, and gives them some money. I love this heroic parenthetical - "despite his apparently slight build, Prince Andrei could endure physical fatigue far better than the strongest people." For some reason that struck me as over-the-top - like, of course he can! He's the hero.

Anyhow, he's excited and daydreaming about the great reception he'll get. He's brought into the Minister's office, who just wants the news. He's very sad about Schmidt being killed, but happy that the French have been defeated; not happy that their General Mortier wasn't captured. He asks Andrei to stay to speak to the sovereign emperor, but more than likely tomorrow. Now he's despondent and feels like his happiness has gone, and the battle feels far away.

So Andrei really badly wants to be a hero. I wonder what will happen to all of the men in this book, who look at war as heroic? We were watching the Jean Renoir film "La Grande Illusion" last night, and it struck me as an interesting coda to this - the aristocrats in that movie are on their last legs. They know it. And WWI was probably the last war that was so civilized. There's a detail in here about the sick and wounded being left on the other side of the Danube with the enemy to take care of them, and a letter from Kuzutov entrusing them to the humaneness of the enemy. Can't even imagine that at this point, can we?

No comments:

Post a Comment