City of Thieves

City of Thieves Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The soup they make tastes like dinners that hadn't been possible since before the siege began. Sonya had obtained a potato and traded some broth for vodka, and by midnight Sonya, Lev, Kolya, and Timofei are drunk and full. While Sonya and Kolya are occupied in the bedroom, Lev and Timofei play chess. It's obvious that Lev is very good, but when he remarks that he used to be better, Timofei teases him about his age and asks if he's shaving yet. Sonya gasps and laughs in the other room, and Lev pictures her naked body. Timofei says that if he had chicken soup every night he'd never need a woman again, and he promptly falls asleep.
Benioff is continuing to set up chess as an important thing for Lev and something that he's very good at. We're also reminded of Lev's youth again when Timofei asks if he's shaving yet. Even though Lev says he is, it's evidently not particularly obvious. Timofei also begins to get at the question of what is most important for survival. Here we're presented with yet another view to compare with Colonel Grechko's and Lev's.
Themes
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Before dawn, Kolya wakes Lev and hands him a cup of tea. Timofei is still out cold, snoring. Kolya studies the chessboard and frowns, remarking that Lev is very good. Lev asks if he still wants to bet on the pictures of French girls, and Kolya replies that he should just give the pictures to Lev.
Kolya seems to be willing to accept that Lev might be better at something than he is. By suggesting just giving the pictures to Lev, he effectively concedes defeat in their chess match, even though they haven't yet played.
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Kolya tells Lev to get his boots on, because they're going to Mga. There's enough authority in Kolya's voice that Lev has his boots laced even before he thinks to question the plan, but he realizes the absurdity of walking 50 kilometers to a town behind German lines for eggs. Kolya explains that the Germans are certainly keeping the poultry collective going, and explains that Mga will be easy to find since it's on the Moscow rail line.
Kolya is evidently a natural leader, even for something as obviously crazy as walking 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) through enemy territory and brutal cold. This plan also introduces a sense of danger, as Lev and Kolya will be going behind German lines, putting their lives even more at risk for this absurd task.
Themes
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Lev feels like he hates Kolya, who he thinks probably still stinks of sex, and who is currently adjusting his hat to a jaunty, heroic angle in the mirror. Kolya says that every peasant selling potatoes in the Haymarket brought them in from outside the city, and he asks Lev if he has a better idea. Lev doesn't, Kolya smiles, and the two discuss the fact that the whole thing is a very stupid joke.
Lev is still jealous that Kolya is having sex and he isn't. By acknowledging the absurdity of the situation and the task itself, Lev and Kolya again engage with it as though it's a story, as in many ways it's almost too fantastical to be real.
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Kolya says they have to leave now if they want to make it with daylight left, and Lev thinks that sleeping makes more sense than heading to Mga, but he knows he'll follow. Lev mentally considers that Kolya's confidence is pure to the point that it's the mark of a man accepting his destiny rather than just arrogance. Lev thinks that he himself was cursed with the pessimism of the Jews and the Russians, which he says are two of the gloomiest tribes, but thinks that maybe he has the talent to recognize the greatness in others even if he doesn't have greatness himself.
As the novel progresses, Lev begins to consider a little more the state of being both Russian and Jewish. He attributes his fear and pessimism to being a part of both of these groups. However, despite his own pessimism and his annoyance at Kolya, it's implied that Lev is possibly in the company of a "great Russian" (Kolya, or perhaps others), and that maybe that's as close to greatness as Lev himself will ever get.
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Lev follows Kolya to the front door, but before they leave, Lev insists they sit, since they're going on a journey, and Lev likes the traditions. Someone is hammering outside and Lev pictures a coffin maker. Lev looks at Kolya, who tells him that he won't let Lev die. Lev says that at the time he was 17 and stupid, and believed Kolya.
Lev, despite leaning on the luck that the traditions will hopefully bring, still sees death as the most likely outcome of their journey. However, we know from the framing story that Kolya is correct in this moment, so despite Lev's so-called stupidity for believing Kolya, he wasn't wrong to do so.
Themes
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Literature and Storytelling Theme Icon
Survival Theme Icon
Russia and World War II Theme Icon