Thursday, November 30, 2006

The White Guard - post I

The First World War and revolution are such deep wells to draw on to provide inspiration for events and characters that it is almost impossible not to feel the fear of approaching violence from the very first pages of Bulgakov’s book

It is the perfect book to follow Taras Bulba because again the location is the Ukraine and again the backdrop is war.

Bullet points between pages 3 – 50

* You are introduced to Kiev in the last month of 1918 and a family of three – Elena, Alexei and Nikolka – who are burying their mother and are left all alone in their second floor apartment to live and defend for themselves

* The eldest son Alexei is studying to be a doctor, Elena is married to a solider Talberg and Nikolka is 17 and they are surviving the cold winter burning wood on the stove when they hear the distant sound of artillery fire

* The sound is put in context with the city being occupied by the Germans but being attacked by the communists and Elena is worried because her husband Talberg has yet to return home

* The door bell rings but it is an old friend come from the shambles of the front and he scares them with his talk of frostbite, machine gun fire and the chaotic state of headquarters

* Talberg does return but reveals that the Germans are pulling out and he is a marked man and so is going to go with them into hiding and try to link up with General Denikin’s troops in the South and return with that army

* Two more old friends and soldiers arrive and they start discussing the war and show their loyalty to the Tsar, which frightens the neighbour below who has acted as a metaphor for the fear the townsfolk are feeling about the rise of communism

More tomorrow and the final parts of the Odyssey tonight…

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