City of Thieves

City of Thieves Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Kolya's friend, a young woman who must have been beautiful before the war, welcomes Kolya and Lev into the house. Kolya introduces her as Sonya Ivanova, and one of his early “conquests.” Sonya makes a joke of this, and Kolya explains further that he wooed her with stories of master painters' perversions, and Sonya jokes again that the conquest was short lived. Lev isn't used to hearing women talk about sex, and thinks briefly of Grisha and Vera before remembering that they're now both dead in the rubble of the Kirov.
Notice the power dynamic between Kolya and Sonya. Despite Sonya's insistence that their intimacy was short-lived and consensual, Kolya continually refers to her as a conquest and attributes that conquest to his own skill at wooing her into bed with him. By discussing what happened with Sonya as little more than a challenge he overcame, Kolya robs her of her agency and establishes his own power, even if he does so with a certain level of charm.
Themes
Sexuality, Masculinity, and Power Theme Icon
Russia and World War II Theme Icon
Sonya assures Lev that none of them are as bohemian as they think they are. Kolya says that Lev is from the Kirov, and Sonya offers her condolences, hugs Lev, and offers her apartment as a place to sleep whenever he needs it. She leads them into the sitting room where a group of six people, looking displeased, sit around the stove. Kolya makes friends by passing around his library candy, and Sonya's friends share that they're surgeons and nurses. They ask Lev if he was inside the Kirov when the bomb hit. Lev shakes his head and Timofei, one of the surgeons, says he heard that some people got out.
The displeased expressions of the other residents of the apartment indicate what a burden taking in more people would be, as it means more mouths to feed and less food to go around. Savvy Kolya recognizes this, and smoothes things over by sharing his library candy. It’s not possible to tell yet at this point if Timofei's statement that people escaped the bombed Kirov is a fantasy story or truth, but at this point it's allowing Lev to continue forward with life.
Themes
Literature and Storytelling Theme Icon
Survival Theme Icon
Russia and World War II Theme Icon
Lev feels better hearing the rumor of survivors, and accepts a cup of tea from Sonya. The discussion turns to the war, and one man, Pavel, insists that the Germans will soon take Moscow. As bickering ensues, Kolya asserts that the Germans won't take Moscow because they're currently being pushed slowly back, and the Germans simply don't know how to retreat.
Kolya does ultimately end up being correct, as the German army never did take Moscow. However, the reader has the privilege of knowing this while the characters are still two years away from relief. So Kolya’s confidence is itself a kind of story to keep people from giving in to despair.
Themes
Survival Theme Icon
Russia and World War II Theme Icon
Lev notes that after Kolya's speech, the dynamic in the room has shifted to spotlight Kolya and Sonya, and he says that the foreplay had already begun. Lev tells the reader that he wishes a girl would stare at him like Sonya is staring at Kolya, but insists that he's not the type to inspire lust. The worst, he says, is his nose, the nose of an "anti-Semitic caricature," and while he's proud to be Jewish, he didn't want to look Jewish. Kolya again brings up that he hasn't had a shit in nine days.
Lev characterizes sex as a performance here, an idea that will come up throughout the novel. Here Kolya’s show of confidence wins over Sonya. Lev, in contrast, continues to insist to himself and the reader that he's unable to achieve a romantic relationship because of his looks and his youth, and he insinuates that he'd rather look like Kolya than himself.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
Sexuality, Masculinity, and Power Theme Icon
Russia and World War II Theme Icon
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That night, Lev sleeps in the sitting room, sharing blankets with the surgeons and nurses, while Kolya and Sonya disappear into the bedroom. Lev is put off by the sound of Sonya's pleasure, and wishes he could make a woman forget the horrors of the siege with sex. He can hear Kolya talking to Sonya and wonders what you're supposed to say to a girl during sex. Lev states that listening to other people make love is the loneliest sound in the world.
Here, the language makes clear that Lev, even at 17, characterizes sex as a very adult activity, and sees himself as not-adult because of his virginity. Meanwhile, despite Kolya's language of conquest, the sex with Sonya appears very much consensual. On one hand, one can take from this that the language Kolya uses is just for show. On the other, one could argue that the show is the point, and it is the “show” that makes Sonya want to sleep with him.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
Sexuality, Masculinity, and Power Theme Icon
Russia and World War II Theme Icon