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The long letter from Bilibin is hilarious, in a Catch-22 meets Kafka black humor sort of way. It’s basically a long takedown of the way the army works – or rather the way the army totally doesn’t work.
Bilibin makes fun of everything:
First, that Russia is once again allied with Prussia, who not only betrayed their alliance three times already, but who are also pathetic and easily creamed by Napoleon.
Second, the guy who is the commander in chief decides to quit in a hissy fit because he doesn’t get a special letter from the emperor.
Then he tells an amazing story of two army chiefs trying to get the newly available tippity-top commander in chief job by avoiding each other (with their army divisions in tow) as they march around a river.
When one of them finally gets promoted, the army can’t fight any more because it’s so starved and poorly equipped that it’s not ready for combat. There are more injured and wounded and sick than there are soldiers in fighting shape.
Andrei knows that Bilibin loves a good story and that at least some of the letter is exaggerated. Still, he can’t help getting mad as he’s reading.
But then suddenly he remembers his sick baby and worries that something happened to him while he was reading the letter.
He goes into the nursery, and everyone there seems really weird. He totally loses it, thinking that the baby died.
But the truth is...the baby is getting better! No more fever.
Andrei and Marya share a little moment, and he realizes that his son is going to be the main focus of his life from now on. Yep, that’s how parenting generally works.