Monday, November 22, 2010

Volume III, Book II, Chapters XVI - XVIII


Sweet intimate moment between Andrei and Kutuzov. Andrei tells Kutuzov he would rather be with the men that have a position with him, which Kutuzov understands. Kutuzov is deeply moved, and his eyes glisten with tears as he says they'll make the French eat horseflesh. The serenity goes back to reading his book as Andrei leaves - a French book, of course.

Andrei realizes that Kutuzov is the best person to be in his position because he knows who he is and what life is. "He won't have anything of his own. He won't invent, won't undertake anything...but he'll listen to everything, remember everything, put everything in its place, won't hinder anything useful or allow anything harmful. He understands that there is something stronger and more significant than his will - the inevitable course of events - and he's able to see them, able to understand their significance, and, in view of that significance, is able to renounce participating in those events, renounce his personal will and direct it elsewhere. And the main reason one believes in that he's Russian; despite the Genlis novel and the French proverbs...."

It's intimate between the two men; Kutuzov has known Andrei since he was a boy and respects his need to be with the troops. This determined outcome is something T comes back to again and again - that the men are just pawns in an outcome that has to happen. What is that, Calvinist? I don't know if I'd go so far as to call it religious, but there's a feeling that history is written in hindsight, and the men who are acting are just fulfilling it without realizing. For sure, especially with communication as it must have been in 1812, one man's orders were only as good as the thousands carrying them out hearing from others. Craziness. Now it's all computers


Gossip in the circles. Back in Moscow. Everyone's deserting, and the government officers have left. There's a rumor that count Rastopchin is not allowing people to leave Moscow. There is gossip about Pierre, that the regiment was costing him much, but that he would ride in front of it and let people look at him without a charge. Julie Drubetskoy's circle made fun of him that way, and they were a circle that fined people for speaking in French. Pierre comes in and they speak of the Rostov's, who are unable to sell their house. Pierre says they're waiting for the younger son to return to leave. Then there is the revelation that Marie Bolkonsky is back in Moscow, and is said to be smitten with Nikolai after he saved her (word travels fast!). At the end, someone tells her she should pay a fine for speaking in French, and it ends with her saying 'But how do you say it in Russian...?'

Brilliant chapter. Not only does it sum up a lot of information, it does it while relating the out-of-touch quality of the nobility, and their inability to even speak their native language. It's wild to me how bound up the Russians were with the French at this point - as if the aristocracy didn't even speak the same language. And though this was written in 1865, 40 years before the 05 revolution, and 52 before the big one, you can feel it stirring. Tolstoy was an aristocrat himself, but it's clear he holds no absolute love. That's another treatise, though...


Pierre decides he must go into the army. He's met by his last remaining cousin, whom he has cared for since his father died. She's hysterical about leaving, and feels she must be taken to Petersburg to avoid Bonaparte's rule. He tells her the city is fine, and that's she's been misinformed. Pierre plays a game of patience and tells himself that if it comes out he'll join the army - he doesn't. He does, though, agree to sell an estate for a militia, as that's the only thing that can be done. He goes to a village to look at a hot-air balloon being launched to fight the enemy (we're way before planes, remember), and he sees the flogging of a Frenchman. He is beaten so badly that he begins to cry. Pierre is upset at the crowd's taunting the man, and gets angry. He leaves for the army immediately, and the further he goes toward the battle the lighter he feels. The chapter ends with this: "He now experienced a pleasant sense of awarneness that everything else that constitutes people's hapiness, the comforts of life, wealth, even life itself, is nonsense, which it is pleasant to throw away, in comparison with something...With what, Pierre could not account for himself, nor did he try to clarify to himself and for whom and for what he found it so particularly delightful to sacrifice everything. He was not concerned with what he wanted to sacrific it for, but the sacrificing itself constituted a new, joyful, feeling for him."

The brilliance of this book, one of the many, are characters coming upon life lessons - that's not original, but what is is the way they float in and out, changing. They are strong one moment, forgotten the next - elusive, and life changing at the same time. He also does those moments like the execution so well - crowd scenes, humanity, people displaying sometimes not their best selves. So great.

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