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IN A STRANGE LAND

by Anton Chekhov

SUNDAY, midday. A landowner, called Kamyshev, is sitting in his dining-room, deliberately eating his lunch at a luxuriously furnished table. Monsieur Champoun, a clean, neat, smoothly-shaven, old Frenchman, is sharing the meal with him. This Champoun had once been a tutor in Kamyshev's household, had taught his children good manners, the correct pronunciation of French, and dancing:

afterwards when Kamyshev's children had grown up and become lieutenants, Champoun had become something like a bonne of the male sex. The duties of the former tutor were not complicated. He had to be properly dressed, to smell of scent, to listen to Kamyshev's idle babble, to eat and drink and sleep -- and apparently that was all. For this he received a room, his board, and an indefinite salary.

Kamyshev eats and as usual babbles at random.

"Damnation!" he says, wiping away the tears that have come into his eyes after a mouthful of ham thickly smeared with mustard. "Ough! It has shot into my head and all my joints. Your French mustard would not do that, you know, if you ate the whole potful."

"Some like the French, some prefer the

Russian. .

." Champoun assents mildly.

"No one likes French mustard except Frenchmen. And a Frenchman will eat anything, whatever you

give him -- frogs and rats and black

beetles. . .

brrr! You don't like that ham, for instance, because it is

Russian, but if one were to give you a bit of baked glass and tell you it was French, you would eat it

and smack your

lips. . . .

To your thinking everything Russian is nasty."

"I don't say that."

"Everything Russian

is nasty,

but

if it's French

-- o say

tray zholee! To your thinking

there

is no

country better than France, but to my

mind. . .

Why, what is France, to tell the truth about it? A little

bit of land. Our police captain was sent out there, but in a month he asked to be transferred: there was nowhere to turn round! One can drive round the whole of your France in one day, while here

when you drive out of the gate -- you can see no end to the land, you can ride on and

on. .

."

"Yes, monsieur, Russia is an immense country."

"To be sure it is! To your thinking there are no better people than the French. Well-educated, clever

people! Civilization! I agree, the French are all well-educated with elegant manners.

.

.

that

is

true. . . .

A Frenchman never allows himself to be rude: he hands a lady a chair at the right minute, he

doesn't eat crayfish with his fork, he doesn't spit on the floor, but

. . .

there's not the same spirit in

him! not the spirit in him! I don't know how to explain it to you but, however one is to express it,

there's nothing in a Frenchman of

. . .

something

. . .

(the speaker flourishes his fingers)

. . .

of

something

. . .

fanatical. I remember I have read somewhere that all of you have intelligence acquired

from books, while we Russians have innate intelligence. If a Russian studies the sciences properly,

none of your French professors is a match for him."

"Perhaps," says Champoun, as it were reluctantly.

"No, not perhaps, but certainly! It's no use your frowning, it's the truth I am speaking. The Russian intelligence is an inventive intelligence. Only of course he is not given a free outlet for it, and he is no hand at boasting. He will invent something -- and break it or give it to the children to play with, while your Frenchman will invent some nonsensical thing and make an uproar for all the world to hear it.

The other day Iona the coachman carved a little man out of wood, if you pull the little man by a

thread he plays unseemly antics. But Iona does not brag of

it. . . .

I don't like Frenchmen as a rule. I

am not referring to you, but speaking

generally. . . .

They are an immoral people! Outwardly they look

like men, but they live like dogs. Take marriage for instance. With us, once you are married, you stick to your wife, and there is no talk about it, but goodness knows how it is with you. The husband is

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sitting all day long in a café, while his wife fills the house with Frenchmen, and sets to dancing the can-can with them."

"That's not true!" Champoun protests, flaring up and unable to restrain himself. "The principle of the family is highly esteemed in France."

"We know all about that principle! You ought to be ashamed to defend it: one ought to be impartial: a

pig is always a

pig. . . .

bless them for it."

We must thank the Germans for having beaten

them. . . .

Yes indeed, God

"In that case, monsieur, I don't

understand. .

you hate the French why do you keep me?"

." says the Frenchman leaping up with flashing eyes, "if

"What am I to do with you?"

"Let me go, and I will go back to France."

"Wha-at? But do you suppose they would let you into France now? Why, you are a traitor to your

country! At one time Napoleon's your great man, at another you out?"

Gambetta. . . .

Who the devil can make

"Monsieur," says Champoun in French, spluttering and crushing up his table napkin in his hands, "my worst enemy could not have thought of a greater insult than the outrage you have just done to my feelings! All is over!"

And with a tragic wave of his arm the Frenchman flings his dinner napkin on the table majestically, and walks out of the room with dignity.

Three hours later the table is laid again, and the servants bring in the dinner. Kamyshev sits alone at the table. After the preliminary glass he feels a craving to babble. He wants to chatter, but he has no listener.

"What is Alphonse Ludovikovitch doing?" he asks the footman.

"He is packing his trunk, sir."

"What a noodle! Lord forgive us!" says Kamyshev, and goes in to the Frenchman.

Champoun is sitting on the floor in his room, and with trembling hands is packing in his trunk his

linen, scent bottles, prayer-books, braces,

ties. . . .

All his correct figure, his trunk, his bedstead and

the table -- all have an air of elegance and effeminacy. Great tears are dropping from his big blue

eyes into the trunk.

"Where are you off to?" asks Kamyshev, after standing still for a little.

The Frenchman says nothing.

"Do you want to go away?" Kamyshev goes on. "Well, you know, but

. . .

I won't venture to detain you.

But what is queer is, how are you going to travel without a passport? I wonder! You know I have lost

your passport. I thrust it in somewhere between some papers, and it is

lost. . . .

And they are strict

about passports among us. Before you have gone three or four miles they pounce upon you."

Champoun raises his head and looks mistrustfully at Kamyshev.

"Yes. . . .

You will see! They will see from your face you haven't a passport, and ask at once: Who is

that? Alphonse Champoun. We know that Alphonse Champoun. Wouldn't you like to go under police

escort somewhere nearer home!"

"Are you joking?"

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"What motive have I for joking? Why should I? Only mind now; it's a compact, don't you begin whining then and writing letters. I won't stir a finger when they lead you by in fetters!"

Champoun jumps up and, pale and wide-eyed, begins pacing up and down the room.

"What are you doing to me? " he says in despair, clutching at his head. "My God! accursed be that

hour when the fatal thought of leaving my country entered my head!

. .

."

"Come, come, come

. . .

I was joking!" says Kamyshev in a lower tone. "Queer fish he is; he doesn't

understand a joke. One can't say a word!"

"My dear friend!" shrieks Champoun, reassured by Kamyshev's tone. "I swear I am devoted to Russia,

to you and your

children. . . .

stabs me to the heart!"

To leave you is as bitter to me as death itself! But every word you utter

"Ah, you queer fish! If I do abuse the French, what reason have you to take offence? You are a queer fish really! You should follow the example of Lazar Isaakitch, my tenant. I call him one thing and another, a Jew, and a scurvy rascal, and I make a pig's ear out of my coat tail, and catch him by his Jewish curls. He doesn't take offence."

"But he is a slave! For a kopeck he is ready to put up with any insult!"

"Come, come, come

. . .

that's enough! Peace and concord!"

Champoun powders his tear-stained face and goes with Kamyshev to the dining-room. The first course is eaten in silence, after the second the same performance begins over again, and so Champoun's sufferings have no end.

NOTES

“Bonne”: literally a house-maid, but sometimes used to indicate a nursery maid. The use of this word

might speak to Champoun’s feminized status in the household. “beaten them”: in the Franco-German War of 1870-71 the French suffered a humilating defeat

Napoleon: Napoleon I (1769-1821) emperor of the French and one of the greatest military commanders of all time

"What motive have I for joking? Why should I? Only mind now; it's a compact, don't

In 1812, the Grande Armee, a French-controlled battalion of over 600,000 troops from various French-dominated nations was led by Napoleon against the forces of Tsar Alexander I of Russia. France sought complete dominance over Europe; Russia was an ally, but had recently broken a treaty between the two countries by trading with the British, who were France’s bitter rivals at the time. In the autumn of 1812, Napoleon’s troops marched into Moscow only to find much of the city on fire. Unwilling to have the city captured intact, the Russians had already evacuated Moscow, prior to Napoleon’s arrival, and its governor, Count Fyodor Rostopchin, had had its buildings set ablaze. Napoleon’s troops, who had already been low on food and supplies after their long, arduous march through Russia, found themselves in a difficult situation: there were no supplies left for them to loot from the burning city. Napoleon retreated from Moscow, but the cold conditions became too tough to bear for the troops. Starvation and sickness plagued the troops and their horses. Over the course of the long march back through the Russian countryside, 380,000 soldiers in the Grande Armee died, 100,000 more were captured as prisoners of war; others presumably deserted. By the time they crossed out of Russia, only 30,000 troops remained. As a result, the French invasion of Russia failed.

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Russians refer to the failed French invasion as the 'Patriotic War of 1812.' Patriotic sentiment grew in Russia throughout the 19th century. “In a Strange Land” was written in the early 1880’s. In light of this information, Kamyshev’s attitudes could be reflective of this nature of Russian defiance to French power.

Gambetta: Leon Gambetta (1838-1882) was a French political leader who championed parlimentary

democracy “braces”: suspenders

“passports among us”: Russians had to have passports even for travel within Russia itself

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Russians refer to the failed French invasion as the 'Patriotic War of 1812.' Patriotic sentiment grew( Russian : Анто́н Па́влович Че́хов, pronounced [ ɐ n ˈ ton ˈ pavl ə v ʲɪ t ɕ ˈ t ɕ ex ə f] ; 29 January 1860 – 15 July 1904) was a Russian physician, dramatist and author who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short stories in history. His career as a dramatist produced four classics and his best short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics. Chekhov practised as a doctor throughout most of his literary career: "Medicine is my lawful wife", he once said, "and literature is my mistress." Chekhov had at first written stories only for financial gain, but as his artistic ambition grew, he made formal innovations which have influenced the evolution of the modern short story. His originality consists in an early use of the stream-of-consciousness technique, later adopted by James Joyce and other modernists , combined with a disavowal of the moral finality of traditional story structure. He made no apologies for the difficulties this posed to readers, insisting that the role of an artist was to ask questions, not to answer them. (Source: Wikipedia) Questions 1) Give a summary of the story and its themes in 50-75 words. No more and no less. 2) One of Kurt Vonnegut's rules for short story writing: Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water. What does each of the characters want in this story? What are the motivations of each? 3) Look at the last line of the biography (in boldface). What questions is Chekhov asking to the reader? Do his questions have answers? 4) How might the story and its themes relate to other readings and topics we have discussed in class so far this year? Are the themes relevant to the modern world? Give examples. 5) Your Questions: _________________________________________________________________________________________________ Possible answer(s): _________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 6) Your Questions: _________________________________________________________________________________________________ Possible answer(s): _________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 4 " id="pdf-obj-3-27" src="pdf-obj-3-27.jpg">

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (Russian: Анто́н Па́влович Че́хов, pronounced [ ɐ n ˈ ton ˈ pavl ə v ʲɪ t ɕ ˈ t ɕ ex ə f] ; 29 January 1860 – 15 July 1904) was a Russian physician, dramatist and author who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short stories in history. His career as a dramatist produced four classics and his best short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics. Chekhov practised as a doctor throughout most of his literary career: "Medicine is my lawful wife", he once said, "and literature is my mistress." [ Chekhov had at first written stories only for financial gain, but as his artistic ambition grew, he made formal innovations which have influenced the evolution of the modern short story. His originality consists in an early use of the stream-of-consciousness technique, later adopted by James Joyce and other modernists, combined with a disavowal of the moral finality of traditional story structure. He made no apologies for the difficulties this posed to readers, insisting that the role of an artist was to ask questions, not to answer them.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Questions

1) Give a summary of the story and its themes in 50-75 words. No more and no less.

2) One of Kurt Vonnegut's rules for short story writing: Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water. What does each of the characters want in this story? What are the motivations of each?

3) Look at the last line of the biography (in boldface). What questions is Chekhov asking to the reader? Do his questions have answers?

4) How might the story and its themes relate to other readings and topics we have discussed in class so far this year? Are the themes relevant to the modern world? Give examples.

5) Your Questions: _________________________________________________________________________________________________

Possible answer(s): _________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

6) Your Questions: _________________________________________________________________________________________________

Possible answer(s): _________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

7) The article on the next page talks about new evidence which supports the notion that the Russians did not, in fact, defeat the French in 1812, but rather that the French had been unlucky. If Kamyshev and Champoun had known that the true reason for the French defeat had been illness, and not Russian strength, how might this story have been different?

(Source: Slate Magazine)

Napoleon Wasn’t Defeated by the Russians

Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture gives too much credit to cannons.

By Joe Knight|Posted Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, at 3:47 PM ET

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 7) The article on the next page talks about new evidence which supports theJoe Knight |Posted Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, at 3:47 PM ET "Napoleon's Retreat from Moscow" Painting by Adolph Northen/Wiki Commons. History has taught us that Napoleon, in his invasion of Russia in 1812, marched into Moscow with his army largely intact and retreated only because the citizens of Moscow burned three-fourths of the city, depriving the army of food and supplies. The harsh Russian winter then devastated the army as it retreated. The Russians’ victory, commemorated by Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture , was one of the great upsets of military history. But no one recognized the truly great power in this war. In Vilnius, Lithuania, during the winter of 2001, workers were digging trenches for telephone lines and demolishing the old Soviet barracks that had stood for decades. A bulldozer scraped-up something white, so the operator hopped down and, to his surprise, saw the skull and other bones of a human being. Another worker later claimed that “the things just kept coming out of the ground—there were thousands of them.” Eight years earlier, a grave had been found with the remains of 700 people killed by the Soviet Committee for State Security, commonly known as the KGB. Could this be one of those secret places where the KGB disposed of its victims? Or could it be one the mass burials of Jews 5 " id="pdf-obj-4-20" src="pdf-obj-4-20.jpg">

"Napoleon's Retreat from Moscow" Painting by Adolph Northen/Wiki Commons.

History has taught us that Napoleon, in his invasion of Russia in 1812, marched into Moscow with his army largely intact and retreated only because the citizens of Moscow burned three-fourths of the city, depriving the army of food and supplies. The harsh Russian winter then devastated the army as it retreated. The Russians’ victory, commemorated by Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture , was one of the great upsets of military history.

But no one recognized the truly great power in this war.

In Vilnius, Lithuania, during the winter of 2001, workers were digging trenches for telephone lines and demolishing the old Soviet barracks that had stood for decades. A bulldozer scraped-up something white, so the operator hopped down and, to his surprise, saw the skull and other bones of a human being. Another worker later claimed that “the things just kept coming out of the ground—there were thousands of them.” Eight years earlier, a grave had been found with the remains of 700 people killed by the Soviet Committee for State Security, commonly known as the KGB. Could this be one of those secret places where the KGB disposed of its victims? Or could it be one the mass burials of Jews

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murdered by the Nazis?

When archeologists from the University of Vilnius arrived, they found that the bodies were stacked three deep in V-shaped trenches that were apparently dug as defensive positions. It appeared that the skeletons were the remains of soldiers. Two thousand skeletons were excavated, along with belt buckles with regimental numbers on them. Along with the finds were 20-franc coins dating from the early 1800s. It finally dawned on the scientists what they had found: the remains of Napoleon’s Grande Armée. Napoleon had led 600,000 men into Russia with the intent of conquering the country; of these, only about 30,000 survived, and of that number, it is said that fewer than 1,000 were ever able to return to duty.

What incredible circumstances could have caused the defeat of one of the greatest armies on the European continent, led by one of the greatest generals of all time? Surprisingly, it wasn’t enemy soldiers or the normal privations soldiers experience that devastated Napoleon’s army. Most of his soldiers were battle-hardened young men, so they should have been able to tolerate the cold, hunger, long marches, and fatigue. No, it was a microscopic organism that wreaked havoc and annihilated Napoleon’s army and his grand plans for conquest. A microbe called typhus, spread by a scourge of lice.

Napoleon initially had no real reason to invade Russia. During the Battle of Friedland in June of 1807, Napoleon’s army defeated the Russian army, and on July 7, 1807, France and Alexander I of Russia signed the Treaties of Tilsit, which made the two countries allies (and, among other things, prohibited Russia from doing business with Britain). Surprisingly, Napoleon did not take any land from Russia or request war reparations. By early 1812, Napoleon controlled most of the land between Spain and Russia. However, England controlled the seas, and Napoleon wanted India, which was then an English colony. Napoleon’s only hope of taking India was to take it by land, which meant controlling Russia.

Since the Treaty of Tilsit, France and Russia had been tense allies. Russia had been violating the treaty by trading with England, and Napoleon, finally fed up, used this as an excuse to invade Russia. In June, 1812, Napoleon’s army assembled in eastern Germany. With magnificent fanfare, Napoleon reviewed his troops on the west bank of the Niemen River on June 22, 1812. Napoleon’s engineers built a pontoon bridge over the river and the army entered Russian-controlled Poland the next day. Things were going well—the summer, though hot and dry, made marching over the roads easy. The supply columns stayed slightly ahead of the soldiers, so food was readily available, and the soldiers were in good health. Though military hospitals were established along the route to Poland in Magdeburg, Erfurt, Posen, and Berlin, there was little need for their services. The army reached Vilnius in four days, meeting no resistance from Russian troops.

Poland is where things started going badly for Napoleon. He found the region filthy beyond belief. The peasants were unwashed, with matted hair and ridden with lice and fleas, and the wells were fouled. Since the army was now in enemy territory, the supply trains had to move to the rear. The roads were soft with loose dust or were deeply rutted from the spring rains; the supply trains lagged farther and farther behind the main body of soldiers, and it became difficult to provide food and water. The army

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was so huge that it was nearly impossible to keep military formation intact, and the greater part of the army dissolved into straggling, sprawling mobs. Many of the soldiers pillaged the homes, livestock, and fields of the local peasants. Nearly 20,000 army horses died from lack of water and fodder on the way to Vilnius. The homes of the peasants were so filthy that they seemed to be alive with cockroaches. The typical battlefield diseases of dysentery and other intestinal diseases began to appear, and though new hospitals were set up in Danzig, Königsberg, and Thorn, they were unable to deal with the large numbers of sick soldiers sent back to the rear.

But Napoleon’s problems were just beginning.

Several days after crossing the Nieman, a number of soldiers began to develop high fevers and a red rash on their bodies. Some of them developed a bluish tinge to their faces and then rapidly died. Typhus had made its appearance.

Typhus had been present in Poland and Russia for many years, but it had gotten worse since the Russian army had devastated Poland while retreating from Napoleon’s forces. A lack of sanitation combined with the unusually hot summer made an ideal environment for the spread of lice. Typhus is caused by the organism Rickettsia prowazekii. It would be an entire century after the 1812 campaign before scientists realized that typhus is found in the feces of lice.

The typical French soldier was dirty and sweaty and lived in the same clothes for days; this is the perfect environment for lice to feed on his body and find a home in the seams of his clothing. Once the clothes and skin of the soldier were contaminated with lice excrement, the smallest scratch or abrasion would have been enough for the typhus germ to enter the soldier’s body. To compound the problem, the soldiers were sleeping in large groups in confined spaces for safety; they were concerned that the Russians would attack or the Poles would retaliate. This closeness allowed the lice to jump quickly to soldiers who were not infested. Only a month into the campaign, Napoleon lost 80,000 soldiers who were either incapacitated or had died from typhus. Under military surgeon Baron D.J. Larrey, the army’s medical and sanitary measures were the finest in the world, but no one could have coped with the scale of the epidemic. An eyewitness account gives details of one soldier’s experience with a lice infestation:

Bourgogne went to sleep on a reed mat and was soon awakened by the activities of the lice. Finding himself literally covered with them, he stripped off his shirt and trousers and threw them into the fire. They exploded like the fire of two ranks of infantry. He could not get rid of them for two months. All of his companions swarmed with lice; many were bitten and developed spotted fever (typhus).

On July 28, three of Napoleon’s officers raised concerns with him that the fight with the Russians was becoming dangerous. The loss of troops from disease and desertion had reduced his effective fighting strength to about half. Adding to this difficulty, the problem of finding provisions in hostile territory was becoming daunting. Napoleon listened to their arguments and agreed to end the campaign, but only two days later, he changed his mind and told his generals: “The very danger pushes us on to Moscow. The die is cast. Victory will justify and save us.”

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So Napoleon and his sick, weary soldiers continued on. Smolensk fell to Napoleon on Aug. 17, and Valutino fell quickly after that. The Russians retreated as the French advanced, drawing Napoleon deeper into Russian territory. Napoleon had split his army into three parts. By Aug. 25, Napoleon had lost 105,000 of his main army of 265,000, leaving just 160,000 soldiers. Within two weeks, typhus had reduced the army to 103,000.

Gen. Mikhail Kutusov of the Russian forces set up a defensive position in Borodino, about 70 miles west of Moscow. On Sept. 7, French forces engaged the Russians. Both sides suffered heavy casualties. Napoleon then marched into Moscow, but it was a Pyrrhic victory; only approximately 90,000 French soldiers remained. Napoleon expected the Russians to surrender; however, the citizens of the city simply left Moscow to Napoleon. Three-fourths of the city had been burned by the time Napoleon’s army arrived and there was no food or other provisions for them. Fifteen thousand reinforcements joined Napoleon in Moscow, but of those, 10,000 died of disease. With the Russian winter rapidly approaching, Napoleon had no choice but to retreat back to France. Napoleon and the remains of his army stumbled into Smolensk, hoping to find food and shelter. Arriving on Nov. 8 during the bitter cold, Napoleon found the hospitals already crowded with sick and injured. Discipline was deteriorating, and the final blow came when Napoleon found that the supplies he had hoped were waiting for him had been consumed by reserve and communication troops. Leaving Smolensk on Nov. 13, the army arrived in Vilnius on Dec. 8. Only 20,000 soldiers remained that could be considered fit enough to fight. Having heard of an impending coup d’etat in France by Gen. Claude François de Malet, Napoleon left Gen. Joachim Murat in charge and hastened to Paris. Murat refused to make a stand in Vilnius—he left his guns and the booty obtained in Moscow to the advancing Russians and retreated back toward the Nieman, crossing on Dec. 14 with fewer than 40,000 men, mostly incapacitated. So ended Napoleon’s great dream of reaching India through Russia.

Many of the dead soldiers were buried in defensive trenches that were dug during the retreat. It was in one of these trenches that, almost two centuries later, construction workers found the remains of Napoleon’s Grande Armée.

Didier Raoult from the Université de la Méditerranée in Marseille, France analyzed the dental pulp of 72 teeth taken from the bodies of 35 of the soldiers found in Vilnius. The pulp from seven soldiers included the DNA from Bartonella quintana, an organism responsible for trench fever, another louse- borne disease that was common during World War I. The DNA from three soldiers contained the sequences from R. prowazakii, which causes epidemic typhus. Overall, 29 percent of the remains had evidence of R. prowazkii or B. quintana infection, implying that a major contributing factor to Napoleon’s defeat was lice.

Most Americans are familiar with the ending of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, commissioned by Russia to celebrate Russia’s defeat of Napoleon. The musical score ends with the sounds of cannons booming and bells pealing; however, if Tchaikovsky wanted to accurately record the sound of Napoleon’s defeat, one would only hear the soft, quiet sound of lice munching on human flesh. An organism too small to be seen by the human eye had changed the course of human history.

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