Polikushka – Or, the lot of a wicked court servant

, . Filed under Thinking.

A few stories tagged onto The Kreuzer Sonata. A bit meh, apart from some somewhat socialist visions of the future in Ivan the Fool. Tolstoy imagines modern warfare:

But Simeon’s intentions reached the ears of the Indian ruler, who prepared to do battle with him. In addition to having secured all the latest implements of warfare, he added still others of his own invention. He ordered all boys over fourteen and all single women to be drafted into the army, until its proportions became much larger than Simeon’s. His cannons and rifles were of the same pattern as Simeon’s, and he invented a flying-machine from which bombs could be thrown into the enemy’s camp.

Simeon went forth to conquer the Viceroy with full confidence in his own powers to succeed. This time luck forsook him, and instead of being the conqueror he was himself conquered.

The Indian ruler had so arranged his army that Simeon could not even get within shooting distance, while the bombs from the flying-machine carried destruction and terror in their path, completely routing his army, so that Simeon was left alone.

These stories are moralistic and patronising, but, this being Tolstoy, there is some fantastic rhythm and tension. Best of all is Polikushka’s suicide and the preceding cart ride home:

But Polikey failed to follow the girl, and went instead to another place.

From the porch of his house there was a ladder reaching to the attic. Arriving at the foot of the ladder Polikey looked around him, and seeing no one about, he quickly ascended to the garret.

Finished this a while back. Naughty Leon, neglecting the reading journal.