City of Thieves

City of Thieves Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Back at Sonya's apartment, she, Lev, and Kolya sit around the stove drinking tea. The chicken sits in a nesting box made from an old cookie tin, ignoring the ground millet in front of her. Lev wonders if the chicken needs to have sex before she can lay eggs, but Sonya doesn't think so, saying that her uncle manages a poultry collective in Mga. Lev thinks of how he used to make fun of country folk before the siege, but thinks they must be laughing at the city dwellers now.
The fact that Lev, Kolya, and Sonya are city dwellers through and through is obvious here in their reaction to the chicken (and it will become more obvious soon). Lev’s thought about the “laughing” country folk will come to seem darkly ironic as Lev and Kolya later venture out into the countryside themselves and see what it’s like under German control.
Themes
Survival Theme Icon
Russia and World War II Theme Icon
Lev laments that the chicken won't lay 12 eggs by Thursday, let alone live until then. Kolya replies that she's a tough Leningrad chicken, and mentions that the Germans thought they'd celebrate Christmas in the Astoria. The narrator then explains to the reader that the Nazis had printed invitations to a victory party Hitler had intended to throw at the Astoria Hotel in Leningrad after conquering the city. Several of the invitations had been found by Red Army soldiers and had been reprinted in the newspapers as well as copied and put up around the city. Lev remarks that the "Politburo hacks" couldn't have come up with better anti-Nazi propaganda.
Kolya will comment later that the Nazis are doing a terrible job of trying to turn the Russians in favor of the German cause, and this is one example of the poor planning in that regard on the Nazis' part. The Soviet Union had a strong handle on propaganda that was intense and effective in spite of their staggering casualty rate, although again notice the unflattering language Lev uses to discuss those coming up with the propaganda.
Themes
Literature and Storytelling Theme Icon
Survival Theme Icon
Russia and World War II Theme Icon
Lev and Sonya decide that the chicken probably needs water, but nobody moves. They're hungry and tired. After a while they again remark that the chicken certainly needs water, but it's not until an hour later that Sonya finally gets up, lights the lamps, turns on the radio, and offers the chicken water. The chicken only glares at Sonya, who commences darning socks.
The characters’ extreme tiredness again speaks to the brutal conditions of the siege. The chicken seems to feel the same way that the human characters do, although it shouldn’t be overlooked that the chicken has some food in front of it, while none of the humans do.
Themes
Survival Theme Icon
Out of nowhere, Kolya says that he hates Natasha Rostov, a character from War and Peace. Lev, half asleep, thinks that he can't help but liking someone who despises a fictional character so passionately.
Lev is beginning to feel affection for Kolya. The friendship between the two is starting to look real.
Themes
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On the radio, the playwright Gerasimov is speaking, wishing death on "panic mongers" and "rumor spreaders," and saying that Death is afraid of Leningrad. When Lev snorts at the passionate speech, Kolya asks if Lev doesn't like Gerasimov, saying that he's at least staying in Piter. Sonya agrees with Lev, and calls Gerasimov a salesman for the Party.
Lev, despite being Russian and wanting to be a Russian hero, has a very developed "me versus them" mentality when it comes to the people involved in the Russian government, certainly born from the trauma of losing his father to the NKVD.
Themes
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Russia and World War II Theme Icon
Angrily, Lev says that Gerasimov is worse than a Party salesman, saying that the man claims to be a writer but hates them in actuality. He continues, saying that Gerasimov simply reads to see if writers wrote something dangerous or insulting and then denounces them, and then unnamed committees decide that the writer in question must be a threat to the Party. Lev suddenly stops talking, thinking that he has revealed too much. Sonya looks worried for Lev but Kolya looks impressed, and states that Lev's father was Abraham Beniov. Lev doesn't deny this, and Kolya says that he doesn't understand why Lev would want to hide that, since Abraham Beniov was a "real poet," and tells Lev to be proud of him. Lev snaps at Kolya, saying that he doesn't talk about his father with strangers.
Lev has essentially described what likely happened to his father after the publication of his book, and indicates that it was probably Gerasimov who is responsible for his father's arrest. Kolya’s recognition of Lev’s father’s name indicates that his father really was a famous, or at least good and moderately well-known poet. The exchange about Lev’s father again brings up the contrast between a kind of romanticism and realism. Now, though, it is Kolya who is being romantic, as he focuses on the excitement of having a famous poet for a father, but Lev is focused on the reality of his lost father, and so such romanticism merely makes him angry.
Themes
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Sonya, confused, says she isn't familiar with Lev's father and asks who he was. Kolya says that he was a great poet, and Lev corrects Kolya, saying his father always claimed to be "fair to middling." Kolya mentions one of Abraham Beniov's poems, which Lev says is the one included in anthologies. Sonya asks if Lev's father was “removed,” and Lev nods.
Here, it's indicated that being "removed" by the NKVD is something widespread and terrifying for everyone. However, notice that Abraham Beniov's poems still exist, which alludes to the power of literature as something that continues after a writer's death.
Themes
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Survival Theme Icon
The surgeon Timofei enters the apartment and joins Lev, Sonya, and Kolya at the stove. When he notices the chicken, Timofei pulls onions out of his pocket and says they'll have soup that night, but Kolya insists that the chicken is needed for eggs. Timofei looks confused and, as the argument continues, becomes irritated at Kolya and Lev's insistence that the chicken will lay eggs. Finally Timofei laughs and says that the chicken is a rooster and certainly won't lay eggs.
Lev, Sonya, and Kolya's lack of knowledge about chickens is played for humor here, but on a more serious note, the chicken means that they'll all be able to survive another day. The revelation about the chicken's sex also certainly knocks Kolya down a peg, humanizing him and indicating that he can make mistakes like everyone else.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
Survival Theme Icon