Tuesday, April 29, 2014

On coming to the end of War and Peace

With the holidays over the last couple of weeks, I took an "accidental hiatus" from the blog--sorry about that. I was also working really hard on finishing the goal I set myself this January--to read War and Peace. And guys--I totally did it! Just landed on page 1215 this past Sunday, in fact.

Reading Tolstoy--and especially War and Peace--is mind-boggling, both for the sweeping, epic nature of the tale, as well as for how Tolstoy's omniscient (all-seeing) narration isn't afraid to zoom in and out of historical scenes at a head-spinning pace. According to the introduction of my edition (see source below), Tolstoy had a couple of big aims in this novel--one was to cross-examine conventional ideas about history and historical analysis, but the other was to tell the truth of history "to scale"--at the level of the average human being living it--so to speak. 

As a final tribute to the novel, I'm including one of my favorite parts of the book--where one of the main characters, Andrei Bolkonsky, a military adjutant, is in the middle of a losing battle, and despite this, bravely takes up the Russian standard and charges the enemy French. Within 4 paragraphs, Tolstoy brings Andrei from his role as a soldier in a batallion, moving through the "fog of war" in the blur of collective activity, to his role as an individual, a human, and finally, a moral being, who is forced to contemplate a larger reality beyond battle and beyond himself--God. It's quite beautiful and moving, and according the introduction of the edition I read (see the source below), part of Tolstoy's effort to capture the truth of the experience. Here you go--in pictures, because I wasn't up to typing the whole section up, sorry (you can blow it up and zoom in to read--the res should be high enough).

Pages from: War and Peace. eds. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. New York, NY: Vintage Classics; 2008. Vol. 1, Part 2, VIII, pp180-181.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations! It really is a great novel. Sometimes Tolstoy gets a little carried away with the chapters that are just long essays on free will and history, but I can forgive that because Marxism was such a new and urgent idea at the time. For me, the military execution chapter was as page-turning as any modern suspense story.

    - Dax (because my profile is set at "Anonymous")