Thursday, January 28, 2010

Volume 1, Book I, Chapter III

We're still at Anna Pavlovna's party.

We meet Princess Helène, who is Vasilly's daughter, and beautiful. The descriptions of her are wonderful, including her own self-conciousness at how beautiful she is, managing to both try and fail to apologize for her beauty and be charmed by herself at the same time. There's an entire paragraph about her paying attention to herself while the viscount tells a story about Napoleon and a man he killed who supposedly shared a lover with him, Mlle George.

The conversation had broken into three groups, so Anna P tries to pull everyone together to listen to the story. Not to be outdone, Princess Bolkonsky comes over to sit and says "Now I feel good" to no one in particular while seating herself.
We're introduced to Ippolit (Hippolyte), the sister of Princess Bolkinsly, who looks just like her but is unattractive and annoyed, and annoying it seems. He was wearing "Trousers the color of cuisse de nymph efrayée (thigh of frightened nymph), as he said himself," which just sounds damning.

Pierre, meanwhile, who frightens our hostess has managed to strike up a too loud conversation with the Abbe Morio about politics. Anna runs over to attempt to steer the conversation away from anything too vehement, and then Andrei Bolkonsky arrives. He is the husband of the Pregnant Princess who sews, and is seemingly annoyed by everyone, but most of all by his wife.

He knows, and is excited to run into unexpectedly, Pierre of all people. Huh.
Vassily leaves for the party at the Ambassador's with Helène, who frightens Pierre with her beauty.

On the way out, Prince Vassily asks Anna to educate Pierre since he's been living with him for a month but needs the company of intelligent women.

Once again, loved the descriptions of the people. You get such a clear sense of character immediately. His description of Helène and her self-consciousness is funny, her paying attention to her arm, her chest, her dress while others are speaking and then mimicking their reaction tells you all you need to know. Or that Hippolyte is ridiculous because he wears a lorgnette, and says in French "I hope it's not a ghost story. I detest ghost stories". And he wears green trousers. That can't be good. Of course, the precarious balance of society and how close everyone had to be aware of what to say and how to act must have been exhausting. And it's clear, when Andrei walks in and is sick of everyone, how small the society must have been.

And I have a feeling Andrei will be very important.

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