Saturday, June 19, 2010

Volume II, Book III, Chapter XX

This is the chapter in which Berg and Vera throw a party. It's too funny, and there's a lot that's quotable, but I'll try to keep it brief.

Mainly, Berg shows up to invite Pierre to a soiree, since Helene has turned him down, thinking it below her. Pierre, of course, sees how important it is, and accepts.

The time before the guests show up is great, with both Vera and Berg condescending to each other. Berg explains to her "one can and must have acquaintances among people above oneself, because only then can one find pleasure in one's acquaintances."

Berg thinks all women weak and stupid, while Vera thinks all men proud and egoistic, each judging by the other. Then he kisses her on the lips squarely so as not to rumple her lace he paid a lot for and says they shouldn't have children too soon. She agrees. He wants to do the talking, having a male conversation, while she wants to play the role of hostess. When Pierre arrives, they talk over each other and make no sense at all.

I love this, it's like an expressionist comedy. Other guests come, including the general, Boris, and the Rostov's. Tolstoy says several times that everything is like at everyone else's house, and everything is exactly the same as everyone else. It's precise without being condescending, and the voice is almost precious as well to go with the tone of the Bergs. His writing is wonderful that way - he's omniscient but his voice slightly shifts in tone with each chapter to illustrate the defining tone - in this case a kind of over-careful precious condescension. It's funny.

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