City of Thieves

City of Thieves Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Kolya walks on a rail of the train tracks like it's a balance beam, and Lev trudges along behind. They pass a crew of women working to turn a post office into a defensive position, and Kolya indicates that one of the women has a great body, explaining to Lev that she has a dancer's posture. When Lev seems unconvinced, Kolya says that some night he'll take Lev backstage at the Mariinsky Theater and take advantage of his reputation—he mentions having slept with Galina Ulanova, a famous ballerina. Lev doesn't believe it, and Kolya decides he's being cruel and they should change the subject.
Again, Kolya is bragging about his sexual endeavors in order to create a sense of dominance and increased masculinity in comparison to Lev, and this works despite the fact that Lev doesn't entirely believe Kolya. We also see how Kolya consistently views women in terms of their sexuality and physicality, which is a way for him to emphasize his own power and agency.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
Sexuality, Masculinity, and Power Theme Icon
Kolya adopts his joke-telling accent and begins to tell a joke about three boys trying to steal chickens from a farmer. Lev refuses to play along, and Kolya asks if Lev is in love with Sonya, and Lev, annoyed, tells Kolya to finish his joke. Kolya reminds Lev about calculated neglect and finishes his joke. Lev doesn't laugh, and Kolya says that other people think it's funny.
When it comes to jokes, Lev can deny Kolya some of his attempts at power simply by refusing to engage or laugh at the jokes. Kolya, however, is undeterred, and brings the conversation back to his own superiority with the mention again of calculated neglect.
Themes
Literature and Storytelling Theme Icon
Sexuality, Masculinity, and Power Theme Icon
Kolya asks if Lev knows why the town is called Mga. Lev suggests it's someone's initials, and Kolya says her name is Maria Gregorevna Apraksin, and one of the characters in The Courtyard Hound is based on her. Kolya explains her role in the story, and Lev asks what else Ushakovo wrote. Kolya says that he only wrote The Courtyard Hound, which was a failure according to critics. After the failure of that novel, Ushakovo began writing another one, but was growing more religious and, after becoming convinced that fiction is Satan's work, tossed his manuscript in the fire. Lev points out that that's what happened to Gogol, and Kolya insists that the particulars are very different.
Whatever Kolya says, what Kolya describes Ushakovo doing is exactly what happened to the famous Russian writer Nikolai Gogol. This indicates that Kolya likely finds Gogol's story dramatic and enticing, and probably idolizes Gogol and the other writers whose work he's borrowing ideas from. This helps create a sense of the Russian literary canon that Kolya is presumably trying to join by writing The Courtyard Hound (which is later revealed to be his creation).
Themes
Literature and Storytelling Theme Icon
Lev and Kolya see a group of dead bodies lying facedown in the snow, their boots and clothes stripped away, and their suitcases open next to them and emptied. Someone had also hacked off their buttocks. Lev says he didn't want to know how they'd died, but knows that they'd been dead a long time. Kolya tells no more jokes that morning.
This passage mirrors the dead body that Lev saw in the canal when he and Kolya were walking to the giant's apartment. These passages serve to highlight the horrors of the siege and make very clear that death is everywhere—and the living can only survive by taking from the dead. The hacked-apart bodies may also be another gruesome intimation of cannibalism.
Themes
Survival Theme Icon
Russia and World War II Theme Icon
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Around noon, Lev and Kolya reach the edge of Leningrad's defenses. A sergeant approaches them and asks for their papers. Kolya hands the letter from the colonel to the sergeant and tries to make conversation, but the sergeant wants to know why Kolya isn't with his regiment. As the sergeant reads the letter, Kolya begins to sing, and the sergeant looks at him with respect and hands back the letter.
We're again reminded of the power that Colonel Grechko has over what seems like everyone in the Red Army. Kolya is reminded once more that he was accused of desertion, which continues to build a sense of curiosity in the reader as to why Kolya wasn't with his regiment.
Themes
Literature and Storytelling Theme Icon
Survival Theme Icon
Russia and World War II Theme Icon
The sergeant apologizes for stopping Kolya and Lev, and says that he knows all about their mission organizing the partisans (guerrilla resistance fighters battling Germany behind enemy lines). Lev shares with the reader that the letter only says they're not to be detained, but that the newspapers are full of stories about organized partisans being trained by NKVD. Kolya matches the sergeant's tone, and the two discuss cutting off the German supply lines. The sergeant offers Lev and Kolya bread as they tell him they need to reach Mga before nightfall.
The papers are evidently trying to tell stories to rally support and create a sense that they're doing something to fight the German army. Notice how the lieutenant jumps to this conclusion without asking any questions—this propaganda has obviously penetrated the army itself and can even provide them with a sense of hope and purpose.
Themes
Literature and Storytelling Theme Icon
Survival Theme Icon
Russia and World War II Theme Icon