Thursday, March 11, 2010

Volume I, Book II, Chapter XX

The soldiers are surrounded. We’re not tracking Nikolai, but we’re following the General from earlier in the disagreement, who would rather die than lose face. He manages to get through the gun fire, when he’s confronted by a seemingly focused and crazed soldier who shows him that he captured a French officer, and then removes a bandage on his head to show him his bayonet wound, saying “A bayonet wound. I stayed at the front. Remember, Your Excellency.”

Who does that sound like? If you said Dolokhov, then dingdingding you’d be right. He’s sounding more like a model for Rasputin.

The next portion of the chapter is given to Tushin, who has gone a little battle wacky. He is shooting cannons at the enemy, cannons manned by “for the most part fine, handsome fellows (two heads taller and twice as broad as their officer, as always in a battery company)…”. There’s a beautiful description of him seeing the cannons as pipes, and muttering about they’re smoking, and creating a world for himself in his head. He’s losing men, 17 of 40 have been shot.

A handsome man and a drunkard, the number one at the second gun was known in his world as uncle; Tushin looked at him more often than at the others and rejoiced in his every movement. The sound of musket fire at the foot of the hill, now dying down, now intensifying again, seemed to him like someone’s breathing.

The staff officer who we met earlier when we first met Tushin, telling him to leave the tent, now rides up and tells him he must retreat. He ignores him, and keeps yelling as he retreats himself from the cannon and gun fire. Prince Andrei comes with the same order. He does not take cover and run, but stays, picking up guns to take back with him from the dead men. He does not tell Tushin to retreat after giving the initial order. He seems to understand, sifting through the dead in silence, that this is not an option.

”Well, good-bye,” Prince Andrei said, offering his hand to Tushin.
“Good-bye, dear heart,” said Tushin, “you good soul! Good-bye, dear heart’” Tushin said with tears, which for some reason suddenly came to his eyes

It’s so sad. The description of the battle madness is so succinct, and you see at the end why it’s impossible for him to leave. I don’t know that we’ll see him again, but it’s clear why Andrei saw something special. I kind of love when authors so clearly point the way of who we’re supposed to like and who we’re not. It’s not quite melodrama, as it’s too real, but it’s clear for the most part so far who the good guys are.

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