Reading War & Peace #7: One Woman’s Journey to Healing a Broken Leg

* translation: Louise and Alymer Maude (for page # references)

As Bon Jovi once said “OHHHHHHHH WE’RE HALF WAY THERE OH-OHH”. I admit I wasn’t around when Jon said it, but I have this feeling deep inside somewhere that he was talking about hitting page 541. Just a hunch.

“Better stand tall when they’re calling you out”, Emperor Alexander wrote, with slight rephrasing of my own, in his message to the Russian people. “Don’t bend, don’t break, baby, don’t back down”, they all shouted back. It’s 1812. Time for war. Except this time everyone seems to have switched places.

First off, we have young Petya Rostov in the role of young Nicholas Rostov, obsessed with the Emperor to a point of slight insanity, “And [Nicholas] Rostov got up and went wandering among the camp-fires dreaming of what happiness it would be to die – not in saving the Emperor’s life […] but simply to die before his eyes. He really was in love with the Tsar […]” [pg. 197], but this time with some background scenery in the form of the citizens of Moscow acting like a bunch of deranged pidgeons. “A largish piece of the biscuit the Emperor was holding in his hand broke off, fell on the balcony parapet, and then to the ground. A couchman in a jerkin, who stood nearest, sprang forward and snatched it up. Several people in the crowd rushed at the coachman. Seeing this the Emperor had a plateful of biscuits brought to him, and began throwing them from the balcony.” [pg. 534]

In the role of of Count Pierre Bezukhov we have Natasha Rostov, with a slightly different take on “ruining everything”. In this new adaptation, instead of nearly killing a man in a duel over accusations of adultery, there’s an attempt at eloping, some poisoning and then becoming weirdly religious.

And last but not least, in the role of Andrew Bolkonski we have Nicholas Rostov, discovering humanity in the midst of war. It seems so long ago when we first discussed Nicholas discovering that war wasn’t all that magical, as he fell off his horse. Well, it’s been a few years and this time he doesn’t fall. He charges, knocks a Frenchman off his horse and… discovers it’s all pretty pointless. “‘So others are even more afraid than I am,’ he thought. ‘So that’s all there is in what is called heroism! And did I do it for my country’s sake? And how was he to blame, with his dimple and blue eyes? And how frightened he was! He thought I should kill him. Why should I kill him?’” [pg. 517] We can’t help but being thrown back to the previous season, Austerlitz, where Andrew discovered the futility of it all, “Above him there was now nothing but the sky – the lofty sky […] How was it I did not see that lofty sky before? And how happy I am to have found it at last! yes! All is vanity, all faslehood, except that infinite sky. There is nothing, nothing but that.” [pg. 217] “Looking into Napoleon’s eyes Prince Andrew thought of the insignificance of greatness, the unimportance of life which no one could understand, and still the greater unimportance of death, the meaning of which no one alive could understand or explain.” [pg. 227] And another illusion shatters.

Now what’s a good show without a fade-out montage and Ellen Pompeo’s voiceover telling us that “Man lives consciously for himself, but is an unconscious instrument in the attainment of the historic, universal aims of humanity. […] Every act of theirs, which appears to the, an act of their own will, is in an historical sense involuntary, and is related to the whole course of history and predistined from eternity.” [pg. 479]

And now, just another four hundred twenty pages. (Sounds almost as ridiculous as Grey’s Anatomy season fourteen. Like really. Someone needs to stop them.)


 

And on a personal note, I may not be going to war, but starting tomorrow I’m allowed to step on my foot again! Which seems just as exciting, if I do say so myself. Expect some exciting updates as I rediscover the world of walking, a mere nineteen years after the first time.

Hadas.


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