Category: Alexei Tolstoy

The Road to Calvary (part II) – post I

The story picks up with the civil war entering its last stage. There is a bit of description that makes you feel slightly disappointed reading when Tolstoy introduces Stalin as the great military tactician who alone has the foresight to order the manoeuvres that smash the White’s. That’s what the prize must have been given for along with the complete absence of Trotsky, who from my schoolboy recollections was pretty important in keeping the Red Army going.

Dasha is picked up by the Reds and she gets closer to being reunited with Telegin, who is running an artillery battery and fighting alongside the campaign being handled by Stalin.

There is no sign of Katia and Roshchin but you know that no doubt just as Telegin or Dasha are about to meet they will be introduced to break up and slow down the move to the conclusion.

This is almost 19th century in its style but with both eyes on a different master and as a result it is hard to believe all of the historical context giving pieces of text. Still enjoyable but this might get classed as a bit of a ‘plodder’ if you were trying to describe it to a friend.

The one thing however that it has to be applauded for it’s the fantastic descriptions of the confusion of civil war and the penalties of not only making the wrong political decision but also the costs of becoming popular in an age of jealous hatred.

More soon…

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The Road to Calvary (part II) – post I

The story picks up with the civil war entering its last stage. There is a bit of description that makes you feel slightly disappointed reading when Tolstoy introduces Stalin as the great military tactician who alone has the foresight to order the manoeuvres that smash the White’s. That’s what the prize must have been given for along with the complete absence of Trotsky, who from my schoolboy recollections was pretty important in keeping the Red Army going.

Dasha is picked up by the Reds and she gets closer to being reunited with Telegin, who is running an artillery battery and fighting alongside the campaign being handled by Stalin.

There is no sign of Katia and Roshchin but you know that no doubt just as Telegin or Dasha are about to meet they will be introduced to break up and slow down the move to the conclusion.

This is almost 19th century in its style but with both eyes on a different master and as a result it is hard to believe all of the historical context giving pieces of text. Still enjoyable but this might get classed as a bit of a ‘plodder’ if you were trying to describe it to a friend.

The one thing however that it has to be applauded for it’s the fantastic descriptions of the confusion of civil war and the penalties of not only making the wrong political decision but also the costs of becoming popular in an age of jealous hatred.

More soon…

The Road to Calvary (part II) – post IV

The end of part II comes with the reversal in fortunes once again with the Reds galvanised by the Red Terror launching total war on their enemies proving to be too strong for the Whites.

Friends become enemies and comrades bitter rivals that deserve to be shot. Only the determination of the Reds in Moscow with the vision of the Red Terror can change the circle of despair. Once that starts the story becomes one of retribution again but this time with a sense of permanence. The options are running out for the forces of resistance. Hope of foreign intervention start to fade and the successes enjoyed by the Whites start to be reversed.

Katia has disappeared from the story along with Roshchin but Telegin reappears to meet Dasha and is betrayed by her father. The doctor has chosen his side but has a heart attack on discovering that he has backed the wrong horse and the second part ends with Telegin re-entering Samara. He draws up to the doctor’s house, which he last had to flee from or face certain death, and finds it abandoned and the doctor and his wife nowhere to be seem.

That sense of desolation and a sense that the end has come to those who wanted defeat for the Communists starts to pervade the last few pages and is an interesting starting place for part III.

More to come…

The Road to Calvary (part II) – post IV

The end of part II comes with the reversal in fortunes once again with the Reds galvanised by the Red Terror launching total war on their enemies proving to be too strong for the Whites.

Friends become enemies and comrades bitter rivals that deserve to be shot. Only the determination of the Reds in Moscow with the vision of the Red Terror can change the circle of despair. Once that starts the story becomes one of retribution again but this time with a sense of permanence. The options are running out for the forces of resistance. Hope of foreign intervention start to fade and the successes enjoyed by the Whites start to be reversed.

Katia has disappeared from the story along with Roshchin but Telegin reappears to meet Dasha and is betrayed by her father. The doctor has chosen his side but has a heart attack on discovering that he has backed the wrong horse and the second part ends with Telegin re-entering Samara. He draws up to the doctor’s house, which he last had to flee from or face certain death, and finds it abandoned and the doctor and his wife nowhere to be seem.

That sense of desolation and a sense that the end has come to those who wanted defeat for the Communists starts to pervade the last few pages and is an interesting starting place for part III.

More to come…

The Road to Calvary (part II) – post III

At the back of your mind you cannot help thinking that Tolstoy was awarded the Stalin prize for this book. Having read some Russian civil war history what does start to appear to be a style that would endorse this to Stalin is the portrayal of the Whites.

The Reds are portrayed as the victims of a class-ridden country that has no tolerance of those that have sacrificed blood and life in the trenches against the Germans. There is a moment when Roshchin returns to Rostov after the White’s have recaptured the city and it has returned to a pleasure palace for the wealthy with the poor being made to sweep the streets.

But aside from that criticism there is a real sense of the confusion that must have reigned with the different groups fighting for the soul of Russia. Dasha moves from being the wife of a Red officer to a helper of the White’s, even being considered at one point as a potential assassin of Lenin, as well as being a friend to the anarchists.

Meanwhile Roshchin is also feeling similar confusion and wonders quite what cause he is fighting for. Particularly after a fellow White tries to kill him by shooting him in the back of the head. That same sense of it being everyman for himself is evident on the Reds side with Telegin being sent on a mission to get orders to shoot the top commander who has named the crime of being too popular.

There is madness in the air and the way that Tolstoy weaves his characters through it is clever with one memorable moment where Telegin in disguise and Roshchin share the same bench in Rostov train station.

More tomorrow…

The Road to Calvary (part II) – post III

At the back of your mind you cannot help thinking that Tolstoy was awarded the Stalin prize for this book. Having read some Russian civil war history what does start to appear to be a style that would endorse this to Stalin is the portrayal of the Whites.

The Reds are portrayed as the victims of a class-ridden country that has no tolerance of those that have sacrificed blood and life in the trenches against the Germans. There is a moment when Roshchin returns to Rostov after the White’s have recaptured the city and it has returned to a pleasure palace for the wealthy with the poor being made to sweep the streets.

But aside from that criticism there is a real sense of the confusion that must have reigned with the different groups fighting for the soul of Russia. Dasha moves from being the wife of a Red officer to a helper of the White’s, even being considered at one point as a potential assassin of Lenin, as well as being a friend to the anarchists.

Meanwhile Roshchin is also feeling similar confusion and wonders quite what cause he is fighting for. Particularly after a fellow White tries to kill him by shooting him in the back of the head. That same sense of it being everyman for himself is evident on the Reds side with Telegin being sent on a mission to get orders to shoot the top commander who has named the crime of being too popular.

There is madness in the air and the way that Tolstoy weaves his characters through it is clever with one memorable moment where Telegin in disguise and Roshchin share the same bench in Rostov train station.

More tomorrow…

The road to Calvary (part II) – post II

Having introduced Telegin and Roshchin as Red and White army soldiers the narrative then moves to focus on both of their wives. Katia is devastated when she is informed that her husband has died and so she decides to leave Rostock and head off because she is heartbroken and cannot imagine sitting waiting for a man who never comes.

Her decision to travel ties one of the main characters into events happening in the German occupied areas of the Ukraine after partisans capture her.

Meanwhile back in Petrograd Dasha is also grieving for a lost life and finally starts to grieve for her lost love. An old collection of poetry sparks a trip down memory lane and the tears start to flow. She is interrupted by a letter being delivered from Katia that tells of her loss and her desolation.

At this point in the civil war the White’s were optimistic about their chances of smashing the Reds. The Czech soldiers that had gone native in Siberia created problems for Lenin and company. As the tide turns against the Reds the arrogance starts to come pout from the officer class and you sense that Tolstoy is setting them up graphically for a real fall.

More tomorrow…