Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Volume I, Book II, Chapter XI

Andrei is getting ready to head off and meet the Emperor Franz, so he dresses and goes into Bilibin’s study, where there are four gentlemen from the diplomatic core. One of them is familiar.

We are introduced again to Ippolit (Kuragin – remember him? Flirting with Bolkonsky’s wife? Didn’t they call her Kitty as well? Seems like every other woman in the 19th c was called Kitty). They are all gossiping, and it’s clear that Ippolit is a bit of a buffoon of the crowd. They call themselves “les nôtres” – “ours” – and are part of a “you, rich and merry society…made up almost exclusively of diplomats, clearly had its own high-society interests….in relations with certain women and the administrative side of their service. These gentlemen received Prince Andrei into their circle with apparent eagerness, as ‘theirs’”. Whether or not Andrei is interested in that remains to be seen.

Ippolit is apparently a Don Juan as well, and Bilibin brags about him to Andrei. I love this bit of dialogue for some reason from Bilibin “ You don’t know, Bolkonsy…that all the horrors of the French army (I almost said Russian army) are nothing compared to what this man has been doing among the women.” I love that parenthetical. It just strikes me as great speech – a mistake someone may have made, or a joke, you don’t know which.

Either way, Bilibin says he’ll teach Andrei about society, the other two will take theatre, and Ippolit will teach about the women. It’s clear the men expect him to be unfaithful to his wife. In fact, whether he’s married isn’t even a question. He’s obviously not very happy in it, but we’ll see. Andrei kind of shuts them down – “’It’s unlikely I’ll be able to take advantage of your hospitality, gentlemen, and it’s now time for me to go,’ Bolkonsky said, glancing at his watch.”

So he takes off, and gets out of there. I don’t think it will be the last we’ll see, but nothing seems to make Andrei as happy as battle. He’s a grave one, our Prince.

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