Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Volume I, Book III, Chapter XIX

Andrei is still very interested in the lofty sky, feeling a pain in his head and arm, and knowing he’s bleeding. He’s also ”letting out soft, pitiful, and childlike moans” without knowing that he is. He’s lost.
At that moment, a commander and two soldiers ride up, to survey the dead. It’s Napoleon. He was Andrei’s hero, but now Andrei can think of nothing except how ridiculous this all is in comparison to the sky. Napoleon calls them all fine men, and looks at Andrei and says it’s a fine death. He thinks Andrei is dead, but Andrei manages to moan and Napoleon orders him to be taken to the first aid center.
Once there he’s cleaned up a bit, and then paraded in front of Napoleon. Napoleon asks him how he feels, and his response is silence.

The, too, everything seemed so useless and insignificant compated with that stern and majestic way of thinking called up in him by weakness from loss of blood, suffering, and the expectation of imminent death. Looking into Napoleon’s eyes, Prince Andrei thought about the insignificance or grandeur, and about the still greater insignificance of death, the meaning of which no one among the living could understand or explain.”

He is sent to Napoleon’s doctor with the other men. Andrei is given back the icon Marya gave him, and he wishes that faith and god for him could be so simple. Then when the stretchers moved he is jolted back to pain, begins mixing all his memories up, and becomes delirious and confused, finally ending up in unconsciousness. Larrey, Napoleon’s physician, thinks he’ll die, and hands him over to the local villagers.

End of Volume I

What’s going to happen? It’s awful to say, and certainly with the hindsight of history, but you do want to say to Andrei “just get over this Napoleon thing and this romance of war”, but he had to do that himself. Tolstoy in the last couple chapters hasn’t shied away from the graphic, with the 40 or so people drowning in a mob rush to water after a general is killed in a pile of wet blood with a cannon shot, to Napoleon’s calling the dead “fine men” while looking over a man face down in the mud with a blackened nape and his stiff arm flung out to one side. His allegiance is with his characters, but he’s beginning to show us the horror and the hollow once they experience it. Still struck by how the armies treat each other with such cordiality when not fighting. It feels very much like a game - from Bagration’s unwillingness to fight so just sending someone in to buy time, to the way the officers and generals speed away - it’s bluster, romance, and disappointment.

I feel like Andrei will pull through, but I hope we get a break from the war for a sec in the next Volume.

And I have to point out that I did this on a train, trying to get to Boston but failing due to flooding in Rhode Island. Nature has a different feeling when you’re at the mercy of it and you’ve been up all night. It felt kind of perfect with this chapter.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Volume I, Book III, Chapter XVIII

This chapter is sad. And I'm on my way to go to the airport to catch a red-eye, so this will be short.

Nikolai gets confused, going into where the battle is, as he's told Kuzutov and the Emperor have been killed, and then that they haven't. No one knows where they are, but it's clear that they've lost. The troops are in disarray.

In the middle of a field that the French have ceased shooting at since it's covered with dead, Nikolai sees the Emperor. He is overtaken, and T says "as a young man in love trembles and thrills" he is too terrified to talk to him. He figures he should be left alone to mourn the loss, and as he rides away he sees a Captain go up, help him across a ditch, and talk to him soulfully. This just makes him sadder. He goes into the village to find Kuzutov.

Meanwhile, near a patch of ice, Dolokhov (now an officer) is injured and leads a group of people onto some ice to cross a dam. Cannons are firing all around, and his regimental commander gets smashed by a cannonball. The ice begins to crack, but at this point the crowd is screaming at everyone to go into it, so people are rushing in, ice is breaking, cannons are firing and people are getting killed left and right.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Volume I, Book III, Chapter XVII

So Bagration is annoyed at the order given to him by Dolgorukov to begin action, so instead he sends a scout to where Kuzutov and the Emperor are, knowing since it's six miles it will take him all day to just go and come back. He looks over and sees eager Nikolai.

The rest of the chapter is Nikolai running into fighting. He gets more and more confused at where the shots are coming from. At one point, he almost gets trampled by the horse guard stampeding toward the French (he later hears only 18 of them survived). I'm a little confused that he's still riding Bedouin, since he bought that other horse from the Frenchman they captured, but I'm sure I'm misunderstanding.

He runs into Boris and Berg, who have fought their first action. He continues on in spite of the danger (I think this is a prerequisite for survival) and sees soldiers confused and shooting at each other through the fog, who later turn out to be Austrians & Russians accidentally shooting each other. He heads on toward the Pratzen Heights, where the just sees French, though he knows that's where the commander is.

Whoops - this can't be good...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Volume I, Book III, Chapter XVI

Short chapter.

Yikes, everyone's getting shot at, the French are closer than anyone thought. Pandemonium. The men begin to flee, and Andrei finally has his moment, where he picks up the standard, and men are falling about him, dying. He keeps charging forward. He feels something hit him on the head, and then he's suddenly aware of the vast sky and clouds. He is happy finally at seeing how wonderful the sky is, and says Thank God....

And that's the end of the chapter. Is he dead? Cliffhanger!

I guess we're supposed to be happy he gets his moment of glory, as Kuzutov has been shot twice and he takes over to try to rally the retreating men. I don't really feel that way. It's quite annoying for some reason to hear him (and Nikolai) just obsess on how great they could look and what kind of glory they can get from this. I guess it's actually deeper, considering they're okay if they die for it, but it really strikes me the wrong way for some reason. I just want to say, "do your job the best you can and quit worrying so much about how great you can look", but I guess Tolstoy's showing us the humanity. I'm sure that's why many soldiers fight. Especially when war was so romanticized. Ah, well, I still like him, just don't love that portion.

I hope he's not dead. To be sure, I flipped forward to see if I could find his name. Shhh. Don't tell anyone.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Volume I, Book III, Chapter XV

Suffice it to say more lining up, more unsurety, more worrying about honor from Andrei and if this would be his day. There's a disagreement between Kuzutov and the Emperor, but Kuzutov starts the troops before they're lined up completely as asked. This 18th century idea of war is just fascinating. That's what they're all carrying with them.

I like how Kuzutov calls Andrei "my dear" when giving him an order. Different time.

More tomorrow, but at this point, even though there's gunfire in and out and a good amount of fog, who know when they'll actually fight.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Volume I, Book III, Chapter XIV

Okay, here's where it gets a little complicated about geography, so to really follow this I'd need a map.

I love how Tolstoy calls the Russian troops "us", as if allegiance is assumed. That's fair, and I kind of like the familiarity.

The soldiers get up and march in the fog. There's a great description of the whole body of soldiers, the way things are communicated as a through water - quickly, and not quite clearly how. In this case, after marching for a bit, and having no officers cheering them on (since they don't want to do this and think it's a bad idea - "as we saw at the council of war"), the soldiers start to get disillusioned. And they blame the confusion on the Germans, "now ascribing the cause of the disorder with particular pleasure and naturalness to the muddleheaded Germans, everyone became convinced that the harmful confusion taking place was the doing of the sausage makers."

Well, at least no one is trafficking in cultural stereotypes.

So they march through the fog, and right into the trap set by Napoleon. The last of the chapter is his enjoying his moment, in no rush, seeing that the Russian army is marching right into a valley, thinking that he's ahead of them, and he can now attack them. There's much more, but that's the basis.

He waves his glove to signal attack, and his men jet off to give the order.

It's an interesting description of war - marching in formations toward hand to hand combat. It's very organized, it seems. The Revolutionary war was not even twenty years before (and not even over in some sense), so that method of fighting obviously had not made it over yet.

Still, within this battle framework, great descriptions of men and what move them.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Book I, Volume III, Chapter XIII

More time before battle. Nikolai is on his horse with the hussars, in a mist, unable to tell where he is going. Furthermore, he’s falling asleep, so there is an ongoing accounting of his fantasy of pleasing the sovereign and other flashes from his life.

Suddenly, there are noises and fires that are confusing. Bagration tells him to ride up, when he volunteers, to see if there are still sentries posted where they were. They’re still there, and shoot at him. Dolgorukov keeps saying they’re in retreat, with just a small group making noise in the rear to cover it up. Rostov asks to be put in the front line for the battle tomorrow, hopefully to serve the Sovereign. Dolgorukov asks when told his name if he is Ilya Andreich’s son. He does not answer.

Then we’re given the text of a letter from Napoleon, who tells his troops he will lead them himself. The noise is the troops lighting things on fire and celebrating his walking among them (as fired up as Nikolai is – I wonder if that’s where “fired up” comes from). Napoleon knows that they are going attack, and will expose their flank. I do not have high hopes for this battle.

I love one point in this chapter when Nikolai is saying how he would love to kill for the sovereign, but not only kill, but bring the prisoner before the sovereign and slap him in the face. It seems almost comical now, but was obviously quite the shaming. How times have changed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Volume I, Book III, Chapter XII

War council. Andrei is there. And Kuzutov sleeping, and Weyrother (Austrian) boring everyone with a plan for battle that takes over an hour to explain in endless detail (Tolstoy writes the beginning of it and German and then leaves off). The generals disagree somewhat, with it being suggested that they don't really know what Napoleon will do, so it's all possibly a waste of time.

Andrei leaves after midnight, and is struck when he is back at his encampment that he could die tomorrow. He wonders, since he has a plan no one has let him share, if he will die from someone else's wrong idea. He starts to feel sad about his life, but then realizes he would give up everything for a moment of glory. He fantasizes a bit about winning the battle, and then promotions, and then...

Tomorrow is the battle.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Volume I, Book III, Chapter XI

Strategy. This is Andrei with Dolgorukov and Bilibin, talking about strategy for upcoming battle at Austerlitz. Dolgorukov thinks Napoleon is afraid, and retreating, while Kuzutov thinks they're going to lose. The strategy is more complicated, and Andrei is trying to show his superior ideas, but it doesn't look like there's a chance for them. Bilibin and Dolgorukov are sure of victory.

The thing that struck me most is the elaborate clock metaphor. It's elaborate - six paragraphs - but compares the workings of the army and war to the machinery of a clock. The metaphor gets larger, but compares the troops to machinery that is still until the exact moment it moves (six miles of soldiers), and once movement has hit that part of the machinery it suddenly lurches forward. It's a great metaphor.

As in a clock the result of the complex movement of numberless wheels and pulleys is merely the slow and measured movement of the hands pointing to the time, so also the result of the all the complex human movements of these hundred and sixty thousand Russians and French -- all the passions, desires, regrets, humiliations, suffering, bursts of pride, fear, rapture -- was merely the loss of the battle of Austerlitz, the so-called batter of the three emperors, that is, a slow movement of the world-historical hand on the clockface of human history.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Volume I, Book III, Chapter X

Rostov's in love. Nikolai is deeply swooning.

The chapter opens with Nikolai and his Pavlogradsky hussars (including Denisov, of the endearing r swallowing), all have to sit back while other fight the battle. An entire French squadron is taken, and one of the dragoons is led by with a beautiful horse. Denisov jokes about buying it from the Cossacks, and they say yes. Nikolai has the most money, so he buys it and gives the dragoon some too, after he says "don't hurt my little horse" a couple of times.

At that moment, the sovereign emperor comes by, and Nikolai swings on his horse at full attention. He feels "This sun moved ever nearer and nearer to Rostov, spreading around itself rays of mild and majestic light, and he already feels himself caught up in those rays, he hears his voice - that gentle, calm, majestic, and at the same time so simple voice." The Emperor locks eyes with Nikolai for 2 seconds, during which time Nikolai feels the man understands him to his soul, and light is pouring out his eyes. Then Nikolai sees the Emperor later watches a wounded man being taken up, who Nikolai is offended by for even being this close to the Tsar, and begs the soldiers to be gentle with him, saying what a terrible thing war is.

There is a victory celebration, Denisov is made major, and Nikolai toast the Tsar, Alexander the First. Denisov can see it.

Late that night, when everyone had dispersed, Denisov, with his short hand, patted his favorite, Rostov, on the shoulder.
"There's nobody to fall in love with on campaign, so he's fallen in love with the tsaghr," he said.
"Don't joke about that, Denisov, " cried Rostov, "this is such a lofty, such a beautiful feeling, such a..."
"I believe it, my fghriend, I believe it, and I share it and appghrove..."
"No, you don't understand!"
And Rostov got up and began wondering among the campfires, dreaming what happiness it would be to dies, not saving the life (he dared not even dream of that), but simply to die before the eyes of the sovereign."

This book is just amazing. Such heart, and I love that he takes a chapter basically to tell you how much Nikolai is enraptured with the Tsar. I have no hope for consummation (kidding). This book has such a big heart. Beautiful.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Volume I, Book III, Chapter IX

Politics and Power.

Boris goes to Olmütz to find Andrei. He misses him the first day, and feels out of place among the plumes and uniforms and pomp surrounding the Emperor. He goes back the following night, finding Andrei out. Most of the adjutants don't even acknowledge him, but one annoyed-ly tells him that Andrei is on duty.

Andrei is speaking to a General, and is only a Captain, but is condescending, and leaves the general to speak to Boris. It's obvious to Boris, and also makes him feel better than the general. I can't help but feel all of this is about them being Princes, this haughteur they have when not on the field - but it's also the pride of the person who is taking on the importance of whom they serve. Andrei is a captain, but he's also a Prince and serving a higher general, so he can be haughty on the position of his job. I think it's gross, frankly, but I'm not an aristocrat. Either way, he spends some time with Boris, and brings him to another general - Dolgorukov - thinking that he'll have more time than Kuzutov, and he's another Prince, and a bit younger.

At this moment, Dolgorukov is more interested in a summit they just had with the Austrians, and telling a story about Buonaparte, and how they had to figure out what to call him, settling on head of the French government, which is hysterically insulting. Then there's a story about someone dropping a handkerchief and then Dolgorukov is called away.

On the way out, though, a character who Andrei dislikes is introduced, Prince Adam Czartoryski, who walks toward Andrei with a cold gaze, like a game of chicken, and at the last moment turns away down a side corridor.

Huh. He must be important. The next day they march, and Boris has no time for this, or to see Andrei. But these are the moments, when some strong character is introduced right before a commercial break, when it seems like a soap opera. It was serialized, so in some sense, I guess it was.

There was a lot about strategy and the war in this chapter, which I'm skipping. Suffice it to say they think they're going to be victorious, and there's going to be another battle. And this, which was great, echoing through the centuries:

"When Germans start being accurate, there's no end to it!"

That just made me laugh for some reason. National character stuff, that goes away hard.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Volume I, Book III, Chapter VIII

This should be title "The Ecstasy of the Soldier".

The Austrian and Russian troops, all 80,000 of them, gather together to be reviewed by the two Emperors, of Russia and Austria. So there's wonderful description of the uniforms, the sounds, the extra-careful attention being given to every detail by the soldiers.

The Emperor comes, and we see it through Nikolai's eyes. It's that giant crowd ecstasy - that morale will be built just by seeing the Emperor. Alexander rides through, and Nikolai is beside himself. He is so overjoyed he wants to cry, and would die for this man. He thinks that, even wishing he was being asked. The whole crowd is overjoyed, loud, proud. Nikolai sees Andrei in the Emperor's retinue, and even forgives him, as he loves everyone at that moment. He gets a special moment, bringing up the rear on his horse Bedouin that Denisov sold him. He is proud beyond measure. They are all ready for battle, and primed for it.

T is great at communicating this communal battle fervor - the uniforms, the theatricality of it, for want of a better word. You see what the romance was. It's overwhelming.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Volume I, Book III, Chapter VII

This is a long one, but basically Boris is stationed with Berg (who I don't remember, but I get the feeling I should) in the Izmailovsky regiment of the Russian guards and is ten miles away from where Nikolai is. Boris has the letter and money for Nikolai.

Immediately it's clear that the war has been very different for Boris and Berg. They have been traveling with the grand duke, so they've been fêted and celebrated with endless balls, parades, and parties. Their clothes are all clean. Nikolai, in his battle clothes with a sling, comes into their tent. Boris is happy to see him. He interrupts he and Berg's playing checkers.

They start to tell stories about the war, and Nikolai tells his battle story. T is quick to tell it's the one they want to hear, not the one where Nikolai falls off his horse, disclocates his shoulder, and jumps into a bush. He is on fire with having seen real combat. When he starts to read the letters, he rudely asks Berg to leave, since it's personal. Nikolai finds a letter of introduction to Bagration from the countess, which he throws aside saying he doesn't want to be an adjutant. Boris picks it up and tells him he could have a career in military service.

Once he's read them, he asks Boris for the second time to order some wine, which seems to annoy Boris, who tells him to call back Berg to drink with him, since Boris can't (don't know what that's about). So he's in the midst of his story when Andrei walks in. He is there to help Boris, as a patron kind of thing with a letter from Kuzutov to the grand duke. "Coming into the room and seeing a frontline hussar telling aobut his military adventures (the sort of people Prince Andrei could not stand)", he sits down and feels he is in bad company. Nikolai gets that.

Andrei is clearly looking down on Nikolai, and they have a bit of a pissing match, with Nikolai intimating there are staff people telling stories about the battle who've done nothing. Of course, he doesn't know what Andrei did in standing by Tushin at the battle. Andrei stands up and says

"You want to insult me, and I am ready to agree with you that it is very easy to do so, if you lack sufficient respect for yourself; but you must agree that the rime and place have been rather poorly chosenf or that. One of these dasy we'll all take part in a big, more serious duel, and beisdes that, Drubetskoy, who says he's your old friend, is not at all to blame for the fact that my physiognomy has the misfortune not to please you. However," he said, getting up "you know my name and where to find me; but don't forget," he added, "that I consider myself nor you insulted in the least, and my advice, as an older man, is to let this matter go without consequences. So I'll be waiting for you on Friday after the review, Drubetskoy. Good-bye," Prince Andrei concluded and left, after bowing to them both.

Rostov is of course annoyed and "remembered what reply he should have given only when the man was already gone. And he was more angry because he had forgotten to say it...Now he though spitefully of what a pleasure it would be to see this small, weak and proud man's fear in the face of his pistol, then he was surprised to feel that, of all the people he knew, there was no one he so wished to have for a friend as this hateful little adjutant."

You just know they belong together, don't you? It's weird, since the circles are so small, that they didn't know each other back home, but perhaps it was a Petersburg/Moscow thing. Maybe Anna Mikhailovna would be the only common link, as I don't think Vassily really knows the Rostov's, but obviously Pierre does since there's that whole thing with Natasha. Small world, but they apparently haven't collided.

I love this translation - how he "remembered" what to say. Brilliant. Also, getting across the contradictions in the spirit of all the characters is so clear in it. How great Tolstoy is - the disconnect between the action and the thought of the people, their fantasies and what the reality is, is just brilliant. That last bit about him wanting no one so much for a friend as this man who has just berated him. Excellent. I didn't really picture Andrei as small, but I guess I have to now.

Another great chapter.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Volume I, Book III, Chapter VI

This chapter makes me ridiculously happy for some reason.

There is a letter from Nikolai that his father receives. They haven't heard from him, and Count Rostov steals into his study and reads it. He cries and laughs and cries, and Anna Mikhailovna (who is still staying with them) steals in on him and finds out about the letter. She is going to tell no one, since it would upset the Countess and they have to prepare her. During dinner, she starts to prepare the Countess for the letter. Natasha, smart girl that she is, figures it out and makes Anna confess, and Anna tells her the contents swearing to tell no one. She tells Sonya. Petya teases Natasha about not really being in love with Boris, but that fat man with the spectacles (Pierre) and some other horse groomer or something.

Finally, the Countess is read the letter, which mentions everyone and says that he is wounded but was promoted. The letter is read aloud, which just makes everyone cry, and makes Sonya so happy that he has sworn love for her that she has to leave and go twirl in the ballroom.

Then Vera, of course, chimes in--

"What are you crying for,maman?" said Vera. "From all that he writes, you should rejoice and not cry."
That was perfectly correct, but the count, and the countess, and Natasha -- everyone looked at her with reproach. "Who does she take after?" thought the countess.

That's such a great moment - all this build and emotion, and then a little comedy. The letter is then read by the countess to everyone who worked in the house, or might know Nikolai, and acquaintances, and anyone would would listen. And much praise for Nikolai. They supervised for a week drafting and redrafting letters and collecting money to send to outfit him. And then this, which is all heart, and makes me think about what different times we're living in -

The Rostovs assumed that the address Russian Guards Abroad was a perfectly definite address, and that, if the letter reached the grand duke who was in command of the guards, there was no reason to think it would not reach the Pavlogradsky regiment, which should be in the vicinity; and therefore it was decided to send the letters and money through the grand duke's courier to Boris, and Boris would have to deliver them to Nikolushka. There were letters from the old count, from the countess, from Petya, from Vera, from Natasha, and from Sonya, and, finally, 6,000 roubles for outfitting, as well as various things the count sent to his son.

It's so caring, and I really hope it gets there. And what a time when that would seem a sensible delivery. And T has set it up so well that you can imagine the whole house arguing and finally agreeing on the best way to send things to the boy they loved and missed so much. So sweet. I'm really hoping he gets the package.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Volume I, Book III, Chapter V

The chapter opens with no one being able to sleep - except Anatole of course, whose head just hits the pillow and he's out. I love that detail. Marya is wondering how she can love him and if he will be her husband, while Amelia (Mlle Bourienne) is worrying about her fall and possible assignation in the garden. Old Prince Andrei is concerned that his daughter will give herself away, when it's so obvious that Anatole is only interested in Bourienne, and he loves his daughter too much for that too not hurt him. He wonders who she can be so blind. He leaves it up to her, though.

The next day, he has a chat with her, and drops a little hint about Amelie being taken as part of the dowry, but renegs and just says it's her choice, bellowing yes or no at her as she leaves the study. She walks into the winter garden, and sees Anatole whispering to Amelie, with his arm around her waist - they had both figured out they needed to meet. Amelie screams and runs away, while Anatole tries to recover. Amelie goes back to the Princess to apologize, and says she feels awful, but Marya does not blame her at all.

Marya is summoned to tell Vassily her decision. Drum roll, please. She says no. She says she'd rather stay with her father and never separate herself from him. He protests, but taking his daughter by the hand, he pulled her to him and did not kiss her, but leaning his forehead to her forehead, touched it, and squeezed her hand, which he was holding, so hard that she winced and cried out. Sweet, for him.

Vassily, oily all the time, beautifully asks her in French, after saying that this is a moment he will never forget (I bet he won't), if they can possibly hope that she will just say perhaps. She says definitively that she will never marry his son.

And, in a Scarlett O'Hara moment, she steelily (that's not a word -with steely determination?) vows that she will help Amelie marry Anatole, even if that means giving her money - She is so unhappy, a stranger, lonely, helpless! And, my God, how passionately she loves him, if she could so forget herself. I might have done the same!..." thought Princess Marya.

Once again, marriage seems a little ridiculous - these people barely met and Marya was head over heels for him, and so is Amelie. And ready to make all these huge decisions. And just a moment for the "Sacred history of marriage" that all the conservatives talk about - this is the real history. She may have been given a choice, which was rare, but it's all about money, and families. Read Austen. Anyhow, diatribe over, but it's so ridiculous.

Now Marya is devoting herself to a higher purpose. She just looooves to suffer. So noble, isn't it?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Volume I, Book III, Chapter IV

This is just getting too good. I believe I like the society chapters so much because he great skill at character drawing is on display. Not that's it's not evident everywhere else, but it's just particularly juicy.

There's really too much to even go into that is good. This is becoming a page turner, if you can believe it. I see how it was serialized.

So Marya goes into the room with Anatole and Vassily. It's clear she's made up her mind to love him - she's completely overwhelmed, even when trying to ignore him. Meanwhile Anatole is self-satisfied and very aware of the effect he's having on the ladies.

In Anatole's behavior with women there was a manner which more than any other awakens women's curiosity, fear, and even love - a manner of contemptuous awareness of his own superiority. As if he were saying to them with is look: 'I know you, I know, but why should I bother with you? And you'd be glad if I did!" Perhaps he did not think that when he met women (and it is even probable that he did not, because he generally thought little), but such was his look and manner.

Possibly sexist, but he's more contemptuous of Anatole than any of the women. Liza engages them all in flirty conversation. Meanwhile, old Prince Andrei is being crochety and hilarious, trying to convince himself he is fine giving up his daughter, when in reality it's clear he does not want to let her go. He's gruff, comes in a reduces her to tears about her hairstyle, thinks Andrei is ridiculous, and then just takes Vassily away and semi-agrees to a marriage that hasn't even been proposed yet. He does not beat around the bush. It's difficult to limn whether he loves his daughter, needs the help, or is insulted she may leave. Hard to tell.

Anatole, it's clear, doesn't care about Marya, even thinking her "devilishly ugly". He is into Mlle Bourienne, who meanwhile believes that he is going to sweep her off her feet. We know he just wants her to come along as a sweet thing on the side, since he isn't in the position to marry anyone without money. Marya plays the piano for them, rapturously in love with this man she just met, convinced he is beaming at her when he's playing footsie with her friend.

Yes, bad marriage number 2. Romantic loves looks quite ridiculous in this book so far. It's untrustworthy, and comes more from suggestion than from actual feeling. There's deep feeling in this book, and we saw it a bit from Rostov and his wife I suppose, but Pierre and Helene and Anatole and Marya are two bad, bad matches that are benefiting only Vassily, who is clearly more and more a parasite. A practical parasite, but a parasite nonetheless. I can have patience with Old Andrei being gruff and insulting to his daughter and practically everyone around because he's being honest. Vassily is one large deception - he's probably forgotten who he is himself.

I didn't quote a lot in this one - there's too much that's good. Old Andrei's argument with himself; the scene with Marya, Anatole and Bourienne; even ending with Marya thinking how could she be jealous with two people who love her so much. Oh, disaster.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Volume I, Book III, Chapter III

Wow. Great chapter. So suddenly on the heels of Pierre's all to quick marriage to Vassily's daughter Helene (oh, I'm still bugged by that), we have Vassily coming to old Prince Andrei's to try to get his handsome, rakish, selfish son married off to Marya.

Once again, the writing is spectacular, whether it be describing Andrei's dislike of Vassily, whom he dislikes so much he actually has snow shoveled back over the road in an attempt to block him; to the wonderful dressing scene where Liza and Mlle Bourienne try to make Marya look less like drab, and only succeed in making her blotchy and unhappy.

Vassily, it's made clear from the last chapter, is really only interested in taking care of himself and getting money (I'm disliking him more and more). Andrei clearly mistrusts him, and knows what he's up to. And Anatole, his son, is in love with his own looks and will take anything that will give him more gratification. In the last chapter, Pierre was feckless against the joined forces of Vassily and Anna Pavlovna, who basically suggest him into love with Helene even though he knows it's not right. He had never even liked her. But the world is upside down for him, and he's open to flattery.

Marya, on the other hand, is swept up in some kind of insane religious fervor about it, mixed in with her own self-hatred and ideals of self-sacrifice.

Thinking of marriage, Princess Marya dreamed of family happiness and children, but her chiefest, strongest, and most secret dream was of earthly love. This feeling was all the stronger the more she tried to conceal it from others and even herself. "My God," she said, "how can I suppress these devil's thoughts in my heart? How can I renounce evil imaginings forever, so as peacefully to do Thy will?" And she had barely asked this question, when God answered her in her own heart: "Desire nothing for yourself; do not seek; do not worry, do not envy. The future of people and of your own fate must be unknown to you' but live so as to be ready for anything. If God should see fit to test you in the duties of marriage, be ready to fulfill His will." With this reassuring though (but still with a hope that her forbidden earthly dream would be fulfilled), Princess Marya sighed, crossed herself, and went downstairs without thinking about her dress, or her hairstyle, or how she would walk in, or what she would say. What could all this mean in comparison with the predestination of God, without whose will not on hair falls from man's head?

Oy, that girl does not stand a chance. Will this be bad marriage number 2 in two chapters?

I won't get into the whole spirituality/monarchy thing, but it would be interesting to know from that last sentence where Tolstoy fell in that argument. Arguing for religion is somewhat arguing for monarchy, and the divine right that all of these people felt they ruled under, and which was the underpinning of the class system. Sure that just went to pieces in the revolution, but it's interesting in this book and who does what to whom, justified by an idea of the will of God. I'll be sure to keep looking at that.

But poor Marya, she's got strength in there somewhere. I'm waiting for a Catherine Sloper moment. Though I'm sure much later.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Volume I, Book III, Chapter II

Same as yesteday - I keep waiting until late to write. So tomorrow I have to fill in yesterday's and today's in order to make today's make sense.

But I will say this: Pierre has married the wrong woman. And I'm not a fan of Vassily's, no matter how much apology there is for his character.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Volume I, Book III, Chapter I

Okay, we lose an hour tomorrow, it's late and this chapter is 7 pages! 7! So we're back with Vassily, Pierre, Helene (Vassily's daughter whom he wants Pierre to marry, but only manipulative in so far as it's his nature rather than calculated, supposedly), and Anna Pavlovna. More tomorrow when I'm awake and can concentrate. zzzzzzzzz.

I need to figure out a way to do this that's not right before bed.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Volume I, Book II, Chapter XXI

The aftermath. Rostov stumbles upon Tushin's company, and is given a seat in a gun they are pulling. His pain in his shoulder is unbearable, but he's not bleeding. He might be delirious.

Andrei comes to the defense of Tushin, who is called in front of Bagration to answer for the loss of two guns. Other officers, like Zherkov, are taking credit for seeing or doing things they didn't. The staff officer who left Tushin and turned tail pretends like he was there. Andrei stands up and tells the General that it is Tushin who has saved the day.

"Thank you, dear heart, you rescued me" Tushin said to him.
Prince Andrei looked at Tushin and, saying nothing, walked away. Prince Andrei felt sad and downhearted. All this was so strange, to unlike what he had hoped for.

Nikolai, meanwhile is out by the fire, feeling alone and lost, wondering why he had ever come. He is laying outside in the snow, remembering the warmth of home.

They're sad, our boys. Character seems to be defined in loss, and glories of war aren't glories unless you've won.

End of Part II!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Volume I, Book II, Chapter XX

The soldiers are surrounded. We’re not tracking Nikolai, but we’re following the General from earlier in the disagreement, who would rather die than lose face. He manages to get through the gun fire, when he’s confronted by a seemingly focused and crazed soldier who shows him that he captured a French officer, and then removes a bandage on his head to show him his bayonet wound, saying “A bayonet wound. I stayed at the front. Remember, Your Excellency.”

Who does that sound like? If you said Dolokhov, then dingdingding you’d be right. He’s sounding more like a model for Rasputin.

The next portion of the chapter is given to Tushin, who has gone a little battle wacky. He is shooting cannons at the enemy, cannons manned by “for the most part fine, handsome fellows (two heads taller and twice as broad as their officer, as always in a battery company)…”. There’s a beautiful description of him seeing the cannons as pipes, and muttering about they’re smoking, and creating a world for himself in his head. He’s losing men, 17 of 40 have been shot.

A handsome man and a drunkard, the number one at the second gun was known in his world as uncle; Tushin looked at him more often than at the others and rejoiced in his every movement. The sound of musket fire at the foot of the hill, now dying down, now intensifying again, seemed to him like someone’s breathing.

The staff officer who we met earlier when we first met Tushin, telling him to leave the tent, now rides up and tells him he must retreat. He ignores him, and keeps yelling as he retreats himself from the cannon and gun fire. Prince Andrei comes with the same order. He does not take cover and run, but stays, picking up guns to take back with him from the dead men. He does not tell Tushin to retreat after giving the initial order. He seems to understand, sifting through the dead in silence, that this is not an option.

”Well, good-bye,” Prince Andrei said, offering his hand to Tushin.
“Good-bye, dear heart,” said Tushin, “you good soul! Good-bye, dear heart’” Tushin said with tears, which for some reason suddenly came to his eyes

It’s so sad. The description of the battle madness is so succinct, and you see at the end why it’s impossible for him to leave. I don’t know that we’ll see him again, but it’s clear why Andrei saw something special. I kind of love when authors so clearly point the way of who we’re supposed to like and who we’re not. It’s not quite melodrama, as it’s too real, but it’s clear for the most part so far who the good guys are.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Volume I, Part II, Chapter XIX

Oh, no. This is not good. Zherkov is sent back to warn the left flank to retreat, but is too scared to get close and so there are no orders given. Worse, a Colonel and a General of that flank are disagreeing as to what to do, and it's clear it's a pissing contest. While they are daring each other and arguing, they are attacked.

Sadly, this is the unit with Nikolai and Denisov (remember him - the drunken one we like who has the jet black hair and pronounces his r's with a gh?). Nikolai is shot, and there's a beautiful section of his confusion about what is happening as his horse is shot out from beneath him, and he himself discovers he is shot. He is thinking at the outset of glory, but then thinks of survival:

He seized his pistol and, instead of firing it, threw it at the Frenchman, and ran for the bushes as fast as he could. He ran not with the feeling of doubt and conflict with which he had gone to the Enns bridge, but with the feeling of a hare escaping from hounds.

He crouches and misses as the French fire at him, which is flabbergasting as he thought he would have been captured. He barely makes into bushes where he finds Russian artillerymen, but his left arm is definitely wounded if not lost.

Oh, boy, spending all this time with these people has made me kind of fond of them. I have an awful feeling more will die. I'm sure they will. It's beautiful writing, but I bet it will be heartbreaking. That became clear when I thought Nikolai was going to die. Not yet....

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Volume I, Book II, Chapter XVIII

Okay, there's going to be a lot of war here. I don't want to spend the next posts summarizing strategy, so I'll just say that it's a battle, and the Russians move forward valiantly.

The chapter opens in the smoke of the guns and cannons, men being shot, bleeding, choking, dying. Once again, Bagration is the General so everyone is hyper aware of him. There is long description of a marching regiment, whose head seems to have the sole aim of being seen and appreciated by the General.

Through Andrei's eyes, in the last chapter, we saw how Bagration managed to just nod at everything people were doing as if he approved and/or it was his idea. He comes into focus in battle. A wind, at some point, exposes the French and their "shaggy hats". "Nice marching" someone in Bagration's crowd says. I don't know why that made me laugh, but it did. Hard to tell if it's sarcastic or not.

There's a footnote about this battle from a real history, that both sides charged and never showed a weakness or gave up first. Bagration leads the charge at the end with a "Hurrah" that all the other soldiers take up. They're all hell bent on destruction. It's almost like, and seems to be set up, that they fight more to fight than to win at something. Winning is the spoils of war for them - the glory. The rush. That's all Andrei seems to be interested in, and the others as well.

Also interesting that they stay and march in formation. I've heard that the Revolutionary war changed that, but it's still in force here. Battalions marching in formation. We'll see what happens in the charge, but it probably won't be good.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Volume I, Book II, Chapter XVII

Okay - shorthand for you theater people - I'm in tech. My apartment's a mess, I'm really tired, and luckily we have tomorrow night off. So, not much blogging going on, but I am reading the chapters.

Andrei in battle. His first thought is for his own glory. Frankly, all the soldiers in here seem interested in the glory of it. I guess that's honest. I wonder where T's pacifism is in this - maybe that was later. Either way, much about Bagration and how his mere presence just made the men be better, whether or not he knows what he's doing. Interesting meditation on leadership.

More tomorrow, but now I doze.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Volume I, Book II, Chapter XVI

The Hurt Locker just won best picture. Still haven't seen it, but now I must, especially considering the War portion I'm reading now.

Andrei is surveying from the incline where the Russian army is, overlooking the valley near the village of Schongraben. Andrei can see the French troops, and how outnumbered they are, but retreat's difficult with a ravine behind them. Andrei has been made the commander of the rear flanks (in the last chapter).

While he's thinking about possible routes if they are fired at, he hears voices. One is familiar - it's three men in a lean-to, officers talking about death and philosophizing about life. There is the voice he recognizes, the younger voice, and a manly voice. The voice he recognizes is the compact, attractive artillery man from the last chapter, who was barefoot in a tent waiting for his boots to dry. Tushin is his name - in this chapter T says he has a "kindly, intelligent face." Just when they're about to have some herb liquor and talk more, there's a whisting sound, and a cannonball crashes into the earth.

I guess Napoleon has arrived.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Volume I, Book II, Chapter XV

Andrei, turns out, convinced Kuzutov to let him go back with Bagration. Yikes.

There's a lot more, and stuff I want to get into, but I am beat. Long day. Ended up making a short film, surprisingly, and went to a play. So must sleep.

But will leave this space free and fill tomorrow. After all, I did keep to reading a chapter a day. Still on target.

Unlike, it seems, the Russians. Yipes.

So, Andrei is lead around by a staff officer, who doesn't speak good French. Quelle horreur! Here we meet a man with no boots, who is trying to dry them and makes light of it - Captain Tushin.

Prince Andrei looked once more at the little figure of the artillerist. There was something special in it, totally unmilitary, slightly comical, but extremely attractive.

Isn't the 19th century excellent - men could express affection for each other and knowledge of each other's attraction on different levels without feeling that someone would question their masculinity. I'm all for Larry Kramer, but sometimes it's nice to just say that men feel this way about each other and they're not gay. And it's a beautiful thing. And if I like I can read some tension into it or not, but mostly it just makes the novel richer. It shows the heart, gives us people to root for. Since I'm writing this two days later, I know that Tushin comes back, so I'm spending some time here. I don't know if he survives past XVII yet.

Andrei then sees a man being whipped for stealing. Ouch. And then hears a heated conversation in French between a Russian soldier and a French one. Guess who? None other than Dolokhov. He shows up everywhere. He and the Frenchman disagree, and then another soldier makes light of it, making the men on both sides laugh.

But the guns remained loaded, the loopholes in the houses and fortifications looked out just as menacingly, and the unlimbered cannon remained turned against each other just as before.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Volume I, Book II, Chapter XIV

I am at the Beverly Hilton, where I just finished stage managing an event. I'm hoping to make it home by midnight to post this, but I thought I'd take a sec and read the new chapter and write about it, while the band downstairs is playing "Sexy Back". Besides, when do you get to just hang out in a nice hotel room?

Would that the chapter was a little more interesting. Lots of strategy, which I believe boils down to this:

Bagration - 4,000 troops
Kuzutov - 40,000 troops
French - 150,000 troops.

It's the first of November,Everyone's racing to Znaim from Vienna, where the French played that bridge trick. Kuzutov's army has two choices - end up cut off from the larger Russian army if they stay in Krems where they are and toward which the French are heading, or retreating and fighting on the way. They choose the second option. Meanwhile, he also tries to trick the French the way they did the Russians, and pause fighting, which will give his troops time to get ahead while Bagration's troops wait for the fake surrender offered.

Napoleon sees through this, and orders his General Murat to attack. He so doesn't believe that he will do it fast enough, that he leaves Vienna to bear down on Bagration's troops, who are waiting unbeknownst of the horror that will more than likely befall them very soon.

I think that's it - frankly, I had to read it a few times, and Austrian place names are a little lost on me.

And we think at this moment - good thing Kuzutov told Andrei to stay with him rather than Bagration. This can't be good. It's mid-November, too. It must be getting cold....

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Volume I, Book II, Chapter XIII

Andrei finds his way back to the front of the front, or at least the front of the retreat. There’s much description of the teeming masses, of livestock and chattel -

on all sides…there was the noise of wheels, the rumbling of flatbeds, carts, and gun carriages, the thud of hooves, the crack of whips, the shouts of drivers, the cursing of soldiers, orderlies and officers. On the roadsides one constantly saw now dead horses, skinned or unskinned, now broken-down wagons, near which solitary soldiers sat waiting for something….”

In the midst of this Andrei manages to push past and sees Nesvitsky and his “handsome face”, eating something of course, with his “juicy mouth”. There’s that mouth thing again. Nesvitsky says it’s worse than it was with Mack, and says he could just escape to the mountains. Andrei manages to push forward to Kuzutov, and ends up being in the same carriage as the General, who orders him to stay with him, instead of staying with Prince Bagration. He is questioning Andrei about his visit with the Emperor at the close of the chapter.

I noticed again how Andrei was looking for his valet, how there seems to be a difference between the aristocracy and not, even when they are not necessarily high up as officers. Andrei is still a Prince, wherever he goes and whatever he does. He still has those expectations, as in this chapter when he stands up to an Officer who is telling him to go back, and whipping a fellow soldier. Andrei stands up to him, and the man stands down, just apathetic. He has that sense of entitlement, though, and he’s said how he wants this to be his shining moment.

And, since he runs into Nesvitsky so often, feels like a small world as well.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Volume I, Book II, Chapter XII

Andrei meets Franz. He is given a private audience, during which the emperor seems to want to know only odd details like miles, times, the time that Schmidt was killed. He is presented with a medal, the archduchess wants to speak with him, and suddenly everyone is affectionate since he spoke with the Emperor. I love this scene, for the tone of confusion, almost. Monarchy and pomp, seen at just enough of a distance to seem ridiculous but not quite comical.

Andrei goes back to Bilibin's to find him packing. He's quickly informed that the French have marched over a mined bridge into Vienna by lying. They told the generals that Napoleon wished to see them and make peace, meanwhile the French army marched over the bridge. A sergeant who tried to tell the General what was happening was censured, after the French said to the General something along the lines of "how could you let an enlisted man speak to you in such a manner?" And meanwhile they were lying and marching on.

Andrei is sad, and also sees this as the moment of his possible great heroism. Bilibin tries to convince him to stay, since he hasn't been commanded to leave - that by the time he reaches the army peace will have been declared, or Kuzutov will have been defeated. But, as we've seen, Andrei can't resist battle and possible glory.

"Mon cher, vous êtes un héros," Bilibin says to him. That he is, and is trying to be.

Great dialogue with the Emperor, and also a great story from Bilibin of the French taking the bridge. His characters' speech is so distinctive, and the way each of them tell a story. Beautifully done. I'm thrust back in each time I open it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Volume I, Book II, Chapter XI

Andrei is getting ready to head off and meet the Emperor Franz, so he dresses and goes into Bilibin’s study, where there are four gentlemen from the diplomatic core. One of them is familiar.

We are introduced again to Ippolit (Kuragin – remember him? Flirting with Bolkonsky’s wife? Didn’t they call her Kitty as well? Seems like every other woman in the 19th c was called Kitty). They are all gossiping, and it’s clear that Ippolit is a bit of a buffoon of the crowd. They call themselves “les nôtres” – “ours” – and are part of a “you, rich and merry society…made up almost exclusively of diplomats, clearly had its own high-society interests….in relations with certain women and the administrative side of their service. These gentlemen received Prince Andrei into their circle with apparent eagerness, as ‘theirs’”. Whether or not Andrei is interested in that remains to be seen.

Ippolit is apparently a Don Juan as well, and Bilibin brags about him to Andrei. I love this bit of dialogue for some reason from Bilibin “ You don’t know, Bolkonsy…that all the horrors of the French army (I almost said Russian army) are nothing compared to what this man has been doing among the women.” I love that parenthetical. It just strikes me as great speech – a mistake someone may have made, or a joke, you don’t know which.

Either way, Bilibin says he’ll teach Andrei about society, the other two will take theatre, and Ippolit will teach about the women. It’s clear the men expect him to be unfaithful to his wife. In fact, whether he’s married isn’t even a question. He’s obviously not very happy in it, but we’ll see. Andrei kind of shuts them down – “’It’s unlikely I’ll be able to take advantage of your hospitality, gentlemen, and it’s now time for me to go,’ Bolkonsky said, glancing at his watch.”

So he takes off, and gets out of there. I don’t think it will be the last we’ll see, but nothing seems to make Andrei as happy as battle. He’s a grave one, our Prince.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Volume I, Book II, Chapter X

Or Andrei finds out what’s really going on….

Andrei stays in Brünn with his friend/acquaintance Bilibin, who is about 35, older but from the same society circles as Andrei. He’s enjoying the comfort’s he’s missed.

Basically, Bilibin explains why everyone may not be so happy about the victory of Kutuzov, namely, that they’ve lost Vienna. And more than losing their capital city, and having Napoleon stay in the Schloss Schönbrunn, their favorite General, Schmidt, was killed [an interjection here – I tried to move to Vienna when I was 22 and stayed for about a month and a half. I visited Schönbrunn, and it’s quite remarkable. It’s astounding to me that people lived like that at all anywhere, and the opulence was kind of mind-blowing. There’s nothing really in America that compares. You really get a sense of what the monarchy was. You may see it in movies, but visiting a palace you see where all the country’s money and effort went. Entire gilded and porcelain rooms. And the family only lived in a few - the rest were empty.]

There’s also a news of a Prussian alliance and secret talks between Austria and France for a possible peace. The Russians, at this point, are not so fond of the Austrians.

Andrei, meanwhile, goes up to sleep and is immediately dreaming of battle glory, and of the battle that happened. He doesn’t feel the horror of having his horse shot or of the general dying, “he experiences that feeling of the tenfold joy of life, such as he has not experienced from childhood.
He woke up…
‘Yes, that all happened!...’he said, smiling happily to himself like a child, and he fell into a sound, youthful sleep”

Ah, youth.