Reading War & Peace #9: One Woman’s Journey to Healing a Broken Leg

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

I thought Prince Andrew Bolkonski was dead, but then it turns out he’s still alive. So much for the tribute post. Prince Nikolas Bolkonski is actually dead, but he doesn’t really deserve a tribute post so that’s no use either. If this were a different book, written in different times, maybe we would’ve gotten a special episode following Mary as she discovers herself and becomes an independent women who doesn’t need no man now, that her abusive father is dead, but it’s 1812 Russia and Moscow is burning so no has time for that.

In 2011, during Hurricane Irene, I was in New York. I got to experience something unheard of – empty Manhattan. It was unbelievable. Deserted. Silent. This past week, that memory took on a new form, with some fire and some French.

As opposed to the battle scenes, which I can understand but not really relate to, this week I really felt like I was in the book. Tolstoy’s writing is excellent, his descriptions are diverse and detailed, and really help paint a picture for the reader, one that envelops you and makes you feel as if you’re right there, on the street with everyone else. I could really feel the emptiness, the stillness.

We had the Rostovs packing last minute; just like how we all remember everything we need to take with us five minutes before the taxi to the airport arrives. It doesn’t matter if an enemy army is marching down your street – people are people, and no one ever does things on time. I loved the description of the messy house, everyone trying to stuff everything into too-small boxes, Natasha and Peter running around and being “generally a nuisance and a hindrance to everyone.” [pg. 674]

I liked the descriptions of the simple folk trying to figure out what the heck is going on, marching down the streets, yelling at each other, trying to find someone who looks authoritative enough to be believed. I can just picture them, fists in the air, like a cartoon mob running up and down across the screen.

We also had a lot of Pierre this week, which to be honest, I never really care for. Pierre started off as a good-natured, humble, socially-awkward-in-a-cute way kind of guy. It was a nice break from all the fancy people making such an effort to out-fancy each other. However, the act got very old very soon. The whole man-child character just doesn’t do it for me. In my mind Pierre, for the most part, takes on the form of a staggering, confused giant with a glazed over look in his eyes. He seems to have no motivation whatsoever, and changes his mind every other chapter, regardless of whether we’re discussing dinner or the meaning of life. I actually liked 1812 Moscow Pierre more than the usual Bad Husband Lazy Pointless Getting in the Russian Army’s Way in the Middle of War Pierre because his character finally seemed to fit in with the Doomsday feeling I was having all week. But, of course, after deciding to murder Napoleon, and then changing his mind, and then changing it again, and then realizing he can’t hid a pistol and must do it with a dagger even though he believes the last attempt at this failed because it was done by a dagger, and then finding something else (admittedly more noble, such as saving people from the fires and French) to do, and then getting arrested, who knows. Good luck is all I have to say. He’ll need lots of it. Like, heaps and tons.

Then again, it could be worse. Imagine being Berg, who “still filled the quiet and agreeable post of assistant to the head of the staff of the assistant-commander of the first division of the Second Army.” [pg. 680]. What.


And a side note regarding last week. Last week was probably my post personal post  in this little series so far. Personal and serious. It’s a very… weird thing having a controversial identity. Just the mention of Israel rouses the masses, with everyone having an opinion, a question, an accusation. Being a left-wing Israeli gets me in the line of fire on from both directions – the global community, blaming me for everything terrible my state has ever done, (yes, there’s lots, I know, we do it to them, we do it to ourselves, it’s all a mess), and the Israeli community, calling me a traitor. Last week, I decided to write about war. I thought Tolstoy’s speech, via Andrew Bolkonski, was touching, and correct, and important. That post, despite being tagged at least just like every other one, has not one single view or like. Now, I’m a teeny-tiny-scale blogger, and I don’t expect much, but to my great surprise (and great joy) these weekly posts have been getting a bit of attention, from a small but steady group. (Thank you, all of you.) It may be a WordPress glitch; it may just be bad luck. But #8 made me wonder if I should’ve stuck with the safe route. Yet, I didn’t, and since we’ve already gotten personal, I feel like I need to share this as well. Not asking for anything, just thinking out loud. As usual, feel free to join in, whether it’s about Eastern Europe or the Middle East. Both will still be around for next week. 🙂

previous entry here


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