Thursday, February 18, 2010

Volume I, Book I, Chapter XXIV

Wow. I am actually one chapter away from finishing part One. Woohoo!

This is getting a little political, so I won't sum up, except to say that it's a bit of a pissing match over dinner with Andrei and his father. It's warm-hearted, and Andrei goads him to anger at one point, but he does seem to enjoy it.

T avoids the confusion by calling the old man prince and Andrei's wife the princess or young princess, while he calls Marya and Andrei by their name with a capital Prince or Princess in front every once in a while. Confusing. Perhaps that's why at the end of this chapter I thought "I wonder if prince dad will end up married to the young princess?" Weird, and probably not, but for some reason it crossed my mind.

Anyhoo, early on they're all waiting for the prince to come in for the meal, and Andrei comments on some bad art and a family tree hanging in the dining room. Apparently it signals the old man's hubris to him, but Marya can think of nothing but wonderful things about her father. There's also an architect, Mikhail Ivanovich, who is present at every meal at the whim of the prince. We're told he never speaks, but he's there to just bounce ideas off of. Or for the prince to project ideas loudly on to him when he feels like it. That's the kind of guy he is.

When the prince does enter, he asks his daughter-in-law to sit next to him. She does, and then she becomes so comfortable she begins chattering, which has about the same effect on the prince as it does on Andrei. It's grating. So he ignores her and starts talking to Andrei about battles and Napoleon. He was convinced...there were no political difficulties in Europe, nor was there a war, but only some sort of marionette comedy that todays' people played at, pretending they meant business. Prince Andrei cheerfully listenened to him with obvious delight.

I had to walk to school 75 miles uphill in the snow - that sort of thing. They do enjoy sparring.

At the end of the dinner, Liza confesses to Marya that the prince scares her because he's so witty. Marya replies how kind he is. Gruff exterior heart of gold thing?

Also of note is that Andrei is written as André when someone is speaking, I believe indicating French pronunciation. The Russian fascination with French has always been interesting. And it's that odd nobility thing - like the craze for German among the high society in the US in the early 1900s. This is beyond since they actually speak in French a lot, and it's almost like a first language with Russian. No conclusions drawn from that, but interesting.

I've also been thinking of paintings I've seen of 19th century Russian women - the dresses are all almost fashionable, but are in a heavier fabric or covered with fur. They're always tweaked a little and it makes them look slightly odd. I guess empire gauze dresses would have been nigh on impossible in freezing Russia.

Anyhow, we've been inside the homes of a few families now, and this is the Bolkonsky's. I can't see Marya marrying Anatole. That would just be a wreck. But I bet it will happen.

And Andrei leaves for war tomorrow. In the book, and when I read the chapter tomorrow as well!

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