Monday, June 21, 2010

Volume II, Book II, Chapter XXI

Really, Vera? Really? So unpleasant.

We begin with Pierre playing Boston, facing Natasha, and wondering what what is going on with her. She seems plain and all her fire is missing. Just then, Andrei arrives, and it's clear that he rekindles it. Pierre figures out something is going on.

Vera notices as well, and has decided that at a real soiree "it was necessary to have subtle allusions to feelings, and, seizing a moment when Prince Andrei was alone, began a conversation with him about feelings in general and about her sister. With such an intelligent guest (as she considered Prince Andrei to be), she has to employ her diplomatic art."

So condescending that last line, since Vera has no diplomatic art. Pierre notices that Andrei seems embarrassed, which he never is, and comes up to participate in the conversation. Vera is engaging Andrei in asking if it's possible for Natalie (Natasha) to be constant and "Can she, like other women" (Vera meant herself)"fall in love with a man and once and remain faithful." Andrei answers that in his experience the less attractive a woman the more faithful.

Then Vera brings up that there used to be something between Boris and Natasha, and even says "cousinage est un dangereux voisinage" (cousinhood is a dangerous neighborhood), which we heard way back in volume 1 from Anna Pavlovna, I think. Vera is parroting.

Tolstoy sets her up in this chapter, and Berg as well, to be almost insufferable. Climbing, self-involved, and mimicking all of the exteriors but with no charm or tact. There's certainly some German parody here with Berg. Vera comes across as uncomfortable, and the countess' thoughts still echoing about how Vera is annoying, and for some reason just says the wrong things. But it's not like she knows it. Both she and Berg are so self-involved and self-congratulatory it would not occur to them that they are anything but great successes and on their way. To us, though, they're buffonish, and without any self-knowledge that might make them sympathetic.

It's clear from this chapter, though, that there is something immensely serious happening between Andrei and Natasha.

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