Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Volume I, Book II, Chapter XII

Andrei meets Franz. He is given a private audience, during which the emperor seems to want to know only odd details like miles, times, the time that Schmidt was killed. He is presented with a medal, the archduchess wants to speak with him, and suddenly everyone is affectionate since he spoke with the Emperor. I love this scene, for the tone of confusion, almost. Monarchy and pomp, seen at just enough of a distance to seem ridiculous but not quite comical.

Andrei goes back to Bilibin's to find him packing. He's quickly informed that the French have marched over a mined bridge into Vienna by lying. They told the generals that Napoleon wished to see them and make peace, meanwhile the French army marched over the bridge. A sergeant who tried to tell the General what was happening was censured, after the French said to the General something along the lines of "how could you let an enlisted man speak to you in such a manner?" And meanwhile they were lying and marching on.

Andrei is sad, and also sees this as the moment of his possible great heroism. Bilibin tries to convince him to stay, since he hasn't been commanded to leave - that by the time he reaches the army peace will have been declared, or Kuzutov will have been defeated. But, as we've seen, Andrei can't resist battle and possible glory.

"Mon cher, vous êtes un héros," Bilibin says to him. That he is, and is trying to be.

Great dialogue with the Emperor, and also a great story from Bilibin of the French taking the bridge. His characters' speech is so distinctive, and the way each of them tell a story. Beautifully done. I'm thrust back in each time I open it.

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