The White Guard – post III

It must be a real challenge for writers trying to describe the impact of a war on individuals and a city, a bit like painters trying to capture the sea in a storm, but Bulgakov manages to do it.

Over and over he manages to capture the sense of uncertainty, fear and cowardice that the soldiers of all ranks display in front of the enemy or possibility of combat

Bullet points between pages 110 – 179

* The Reds appear to have a coherent plan that tries to draw resistance out of the City in one direction while the attacks comes in the other but it quickly becomes clear that there is going to be sporadic and limited resistance

* The focus turns back to the city and chaos reigns as leaders succumb to fear and exhaustion and either flee or become so ineffective they might as well have left the field of battle

* There is a sequence focusing on the troop of men that are responsible for the running of four armoured cars that sums up the attitude of the White troops to the prospect of fighting the Reds

“By ten o’clock Pleshko was looking paler than ever. Two of his gunlayers, two drivers and one machine-gunner had vanished without trace. Every effort to get the three armoured cars moving proved fruitless. Shchur, who had been ordered out on a mission by Captain Pleshko, never returned. Needless to say his motor-cycle disappeared with him. The voices on the field-telephones grew threatening. The brighter grew the morning, the stranger the things that happened at the armoured-car troop; two gunners, Duvamn and Maltsev, also vanished, together with a couple more machine-gunners. The vehicles themselves took on a forlorn, abandoned look as they stood there like three useless juggernauts, surrounded by a litter of spanners, jacks and buckets.

By noon, the troop commander, Captain Pleshko himself, had disappeared too.” pg125

* Among the various stories across the front Nikolka is highlighted leading a troop of men out onto the streets to fight and Alexi reports to an abandoned school and has to go back to headquarters to discover the papers being burnt and defeatism set in before he really understands what is going on

* Nikolka barely escapes with his life after encountering the Reds and heads home in a state of shock where he sleeps and wakes to find a stranger in the house and his brother seriously wounded

* The family rally round to try and save Alexi but he has a bad wound in his arm and is delirious and suffering from fever for most of the time contrasting with Lariosik who with his clumsy ways and desperation to please is a bit of a comic character

More of this brilliant book tomorrow…

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