Friday, March 19, 2010

Volume I, Book III, Chapter VII

This is a long one, but basically Boris is stationed with Berg (who I don't remember, but I get the feeling I should) in the Izmailovsky regiment of the Russian guards and is ten miles away from where Nikolai is. Boris has the letter and money for Nikolai.

Immediately it's clear that the war has been very different for Boris and Berg. They have been traveling with the grand duke, so they've been fĂȘted and celebrated with endless balls, parades, and parties. Their clothes are all clean. Nikolai, in his battle clothes with a sling, comes into their tent. Boris is happy to see him. He interrupts he and Berg's playing checkers.

They start to tell stories about the war, and Nikolai tells his battle story. T is quick to tell it's the one they want to hear, not the one where Nikolai falls off his horse, disclocates his shoulder, and jumps into a bush. He is on fire with having seen real combat. When he starts to read the letters, he rudely asks Berg to leave, since it's personal. Nikolai finds a letter of introduction to Bagration from the countess, which he throws aside saying he doesn't want to be an adjutant. Boris picks it up and tells him he could have a career in military service.

Once he's read them, he asks Boris for the second time to order some wine, which seems to annoy Boris, who tells him to call back Berg to drink with him, since Boris can't (don't know what that's about). So he's in the midst of his story when Andrei walks in. He is there to help Boris, as a patron kind of thing with a letter from Kuzutov to the grand duke. "Coming into the room and seeing a frontline hussar telling aobut his military adventures (the sort of people Prince Andrei could not stand)", he sits down and feels he is in bad company. Nikolai gets that.

Andrei is clearly looking down on Nikolai, and they have a bit of a pissing match, with Nikolai intimating there are staff people telling stories about the battle who've done nothing. Of course, he doesn't know what Andrei did in standing by Tushin at the battle. Andrei stands up and says

"You want to insult me, and I am ready to agree with you that it is very easy to do so, if you lack sufficient respect for yourself; but you must agree that the rime and place have been rather poorly chosenf or that. One of these dasy we'll all take part in a big, more serious duel, and beisdes that, Drubetskoy, who says he's your old friend, is not at all to blame for the fact that my physiognomy has the misfortune not to please you. However," he said, getting up "you know my name and where to find me; but don't forget," he added, "that I consider myself nor you insulted in the least, and my advice, as an older man, is to let this matter go without consequences. So I'll be waiting for you on Friday after the review, Drubetskoy. Good-bye," Prince Andrei concluded and left, after bowing to them both.

Rostov is of course annoyed and "remembered what reply he should have given only when the man was already gone. And he was more angry because he had forgotten to say it...Now he though spitefully of what a pleasure it would be to see this small, weak and proud man's fear in the face of his pistol, then he was surprised to feel that, of all the people he knew, there was no one he so wished to have for a friend as this hateful little adjutant."

You just know they belong together, don't you? It's weird, since the circles are so small, that they didn't know each other back home, but perhaps it was a Petersburg/Moscow thing. Maybe Anna Mikhailovna would be the only common link, as I don't think Vassily really knows the Rostov's, but obviously Pierre does since there's that whole thing with Natasha. Small world, but they apparently haven't collided.

I love this translation - how he "remembered" what to say. Brilliant. Also, getting across the contradictions in the spirit of all the characters is so clear in it. How great Tolstoy is - the disconnect between the action and the thought of the people, their fantasies and what the reality is, is just brilliant. That last bit about him wanting no one so much for a friend as this man who has just berated him. Excellent. I didn't really picture Andrei as small, but I guess I have to now.

Another great chapter.

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