Wednesday, June 30, 2010
The second part of the chapter is her letter to Julie Karagin, speaking of loss and god, and believing she is now seeing the reason for losses. I love that even in her 'humble" piety she's thinking she's got it all figured out. What is apparent, addressing a rumor at the end of the letter, is that she doesn't believe Andrei would ever marry anyone like Natasha, and she does not wish it. Trouble.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Before he leaves, he brings Pierre over, and Natasha tells funny stories about him. Andrei tells her that if they ever have any need of anything, to consult Pierre - though absent-minded he has a heart of gold.
Natasha doesn't cry when he leaves, though she moons about absently for two weeks saying things like "did he go?", but then she snaps out of it.
It's clear they care for each other deeply, but unclear whether it will stand the separation. Tolstoy is setting this up as deep, adult feeling for both of them, but it's a long book. I'm not even half way through. I'm not having high hopes for the engagement at this point, but we'll see.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Natasha meanwhile doesn't know why Andrei has stopped showing up. She is dejected, but one day gets up, puts on her happy dress and shoes and goes to sing to herself. I love how Tolstoy describes her talking to herself - "That morning she returned to again to her favorite state of love and admiration for herself. 'How lovely that Natasha is!' she said of herself again, in the words of some collective male third person. 'Pretty, a good voice, young, and doesn't bother anybody, just leave her in peace.' But however much she was left in peace, she could no longer be at peace, and she felt it at once.
Andrei comes at just that moment, and asks the countess for her hand, and Natasha. Natasha is so struck by him she doesn't hear the year, part, but then it sinks in "A whole ye-e-ear!" she says like a teenager. She bursts into tears, but then gets over it.
The engagement will be a secret. I love how no one has any simple emotions in this - they're carried on waves of complicated feelings. The countess seems almost sad and scared of the proposal, and is a little intimidated by Andrei. Andrei no longer feels the same youthful flush for Natasha, but suddenly feels how young she is and what weight there is in the proposal. It's a more serious and strong feeling. Everyone's emotions turn on a dime. So romantic - all stormy. Well, now we have to wait a year.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
The first half of the chapter is Andrei visiting Natasha, and then her just ecstatic with her mother. Her mother's kind of doleful, but also happy and scared, and knows what's happening. It all feels very important.
Pierre, on the other hand, is completely miserable thinking about it. Andrei bursts into his study to tell Pierre how he feels, though Pierre knows. Pierre is so unhappy, but Andrei's happiness blinds him to it. It's very sweet, even when Pierre tells him that Natasha loves him as well, Andrei is starry eyed to the point that Pierre gets angry and shouts, "She loves you! I know it". ""The brighter Prince Andrei's fate seemed to him, the gloomier his own."
Tolstoy does this so well. His characters are just so human - understandable but surprising. It's a beautiful relationship he's building, and I'm excited for it. Natasha and Andrei seem fated at this point. And you can't help but be excited for them. But I love how we're also seeing how it's effecting everyone around them. Great stuff.
Monday, June 21, 2010
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.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
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.
After his epiphany that all this political stuff in Petersburg was a waste of his time, Andrei goes to visit the Rostov's. Of course, he is once again struck by Natasha, as well as the warmth of the whole family. He asks Natasha to sing, and in the middle of the song he looks over at Natasha and wants to weep even though he has no reason. "The main thing he wanted to weep about was a sudden, vivid awareness of the terrible opposition between something infinitely great and indefinable that was in him, and something narrow and fleshy that he himself, and even she, was. This opposition tormented him and gladdened him while she sang."
He cannot go to sleep. He decides to devote himself to traveling, to finding good schooling for his son, and to living. "Pierre was right when he said that one must believe in the possibility of happiness in order to be happy, and now I believe in it."
For Andrei, it will probably go well, though I don't know about Pierre. That moment is beautiful when he starts to weep while Natasha sings. Beautiful, and about the best description I've read of someone realizing their own humanity while relishing it. The window opened for him again. It seems that's what Natasha does for Andrei.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
This chapter is Andre becoming disillusioned. A visitor, Bitsky, comes to tell him about the sovereign's speech. Isn't that name, Bitsky, descriptive? It's like the friend named Bitsy in the 50's - you immediately know she's going to be inconsequential. Sure enough, Andrei realizes while Bitsky is talking, how pointless the work he's been doing has been - "What do Bistky and I have to do with what the sovereign was pleased to say at the council? Can any of it make me happier and better?"
Andrei has an early dinner scheduled with Speransky, and everything's off. The music of the voices Tolstoy describes seems annoying - a bass chewing food, a hiss of a quiet chuckle, and a the high, clipped laugh of Speransky, which Andrei had never heard but disliked. The conversation is all laughs at the expense of others lower than them, amusing anecdotes. Andrei doesn't find anything funny. He excuses himself to leave.
They fell silent. Prince Andrei looked closely into those mirror-like eyes which did not let anything in, and felt how ridiculous it was that he could have expected anything from Speransky and from all his activity connected with him, and that he could hae ascribed importance to what Speransky was doing."
He remembers his work in the country, and the last four months seem ridiculous to him. I can't imagine Natasha had nothing to do with it, even if it's not conscious. Andrei's decisions just pop into his head. It's quite amazing - he's just off things.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Natasha is dancing non-stop. She is having such a good time, and can't imagine how anyone could not be. She is having such a good time that she can only radiate goodness. Andrei knows she'll be snatched up within a month.
Pierre, meanwhile, is distracted since his wife has reached a zenith in society. Natasha passes him sulking, worried, and tries to help him but saying what a merry time it is. She can see nothing wrong.
So we can go one of two ways - will the doom and gloom overtake her, pain like the pain Pierre is feeling, trapped in a bad marriage? Or will she have joy, and end up with Andrei, who we have seen has a darkness about him but has managed to work his way out of it?
Right now, she's sixteen, glowing, and having the time of her life. Love this chapter.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
The sovereign enters, so everyone is beside themselves. Mme Peronsky keeps naming all the people, but Natasha doesn't care. They're playing a polonaise and she's afraid no one will ask her to dance. Everyone is doting on Helene. Andrei passes by without a notice, Boris turns away, Anatole looks at her as he would look at a wall. Love that.
So Natasha is on the verge of tears as a waltz starts. The only couple dancing is Helene and the adjutant master of ceremonies. Pierre tells Andrei that the young Rostov girl, his protege, would like to dance. Andrei sees, remembers her as the girl from the window, and "totally contradicting Mme Peronsky's remark about his rudeness", asks her to dance. He raises his arm and has it around her before he even finishes asking.
She, of course, feels saved. T describes her as thin and unattractive compared to Helene who already [had] a sort of varnish from all the thousands of gazes that had passed over her body, but with the freshness of a young girl who is not used to being looked at and admired. Andrei asked her to dance to get him away from talking politics, but ends up being revived and rejuvenated with the "wine of her loveliness" when he leaves her.
Ah, romance. He's so charming. They're destined at this point. I think it was evident at the window, but now I don't see how it won't happen.
What a heady chapter. I love how emotionally involved she is in all of it, and we see the brash Natasha so scared, and remember how close she is to being a young girl. And that when she doesn't know everyone, she's a little scared. Up to it, but scared. What's next?!
Monday, June 14, 2010
Anyhow, on to the ball!
Natasha at the ball. I won't give away much, but Natasha is overwhelmed and everyone is taken with her. "There are some like us, and some worse than us,"she thought. Through their guest, we get society's view of all the guests. Helene, of course, is captivating. Boris and Anatole (Helene's brother) are after the same millionaire girl. Pierre is a "tomfool", and Andrei, who he stops and talks to, is "running the whole show" and incredibly prideful, like his father. Natasha thinks he looks more handsome than before.
We know what the pride hides, of course, like Mr. Darcy. And the spoiler I read said that Pierre and Natasha were the central marriage. That can't be right. It's looking like no way to avoid Natasha and Andrei. Pierre's already married. And although Natasha's fond of Pierre, she's obviously smitten with Andrei.
The chapter ends noting how Andrei just turns from a woman while he's talking to her. I think he used to do that with his wife. The guest says she'd show him what for if her treated her that way. He doesn't suffer fools for sure.
I love these party scenes. They're so stuffed, and I love that they go on for chapters. More!
Saturday, June 12, 2010
What a charming chapter. I really love the Rostov's. They manage to get an invite to the 1810 New Year's eve ball that everyone is going to. They're going with an old lady in waiting, who Tolstoy describes as yellowing.
Natasha gets up at 8 AM to get ready, but they're still not ready when they need to leave at 10 PM. Te pandemonium is great - maids trying to take up the hem of Natasha's too-long gauze gown (I'm assuming 1810 would be smack in the middle of Empire). Natasha insists on dressing Sonya and her mother. Meanwhile, different maids and Natasha's first maid (what are they called?) Dunyasha work around her. Dunyasha's ready with a needle and to calm everyone down.
I can't help but think of Checkhov's Dunyasha. Maybe it's a servant name. Or maybe he took is from here. Once again, a small glimpse and little details bring forth a full character - it's brilliant.
The do finally leave, and Tolstoy says the same thing happened with the lady they're picking up, though his description is more distasteful - and clinical - that she washes, primps, powders and scents her old body, as if it's a thing outside her, a sack of potatoes, undesirable and somewhat impersonal, in contrast to Natasha's freshness.
I love the weirdness of 18th and 19th century Russian women's fashion. It's of the period, but something's always slightly off - usually fur. There's something heavy to it, which would make sense with the climate. The Empire dresses were gauzy, as described, and light as a feather. Easy to rip, as Natasha's does at one point. So wouldn't they be so cold it would almost be unbearable? I imagine that's why the fur trim on some of them. That's not for everything, though - this dress is from the Hermitage and of the period, and it's beautiful - I imagine she'd be freezing at New Year's though...
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
The countess feels Natasha is toying with him, which she is. Natasha feels she should be able to do whatever she likes. Besides, she could not marry Boris, because he's "so narrow, like a dining-room clock...You don't understand?....Narrow, you know, gray, light gray." And she goes on, saying that Pierre is "blue, dark blue with red, and he's rectangular."
At that moment the count knocks at the door and Natasha scurries away. She has a fantasy outside of her, as if someone is speaking about how wonderful she is and all she can do, and she falls asleep.
The countess talks to Boris and he stops visiting.
He's probably confused, bewitched by Natasha and old feelings, but knowing there's nothing there. The countess sure sees it. I really hope something good happens to the Rostovs - it pains me to see them in such bad straits. And then there are vipers around who manage to have it all. I suppose because they must need it very badly. The Rostovs are so generous, but that's not always the best thing if you're surrounded by people who take advantage. I'm worried for them.
And Tolstoy has created some great characters.
Monday, June 7, 2010
He visits the Rostovs for the first time in 1809, when Natasha is 16. She's secretly not forgotten their kiss, but says she doesn't care. Anna Mikhailovna doesn't visit the Rostov's as much, either. It seems their fortunes in Petersburg are decidedly bad.
Boris, though, has a great fortune at the moment in who he has befriended (calculatingly, as we've seen). He's dressed perfectly, smoothing with his right hand the cleanest of molded gloves on his left, spoke with especially refined pursing of the lips about the amusements of Petersburg high society, and with mild mockery recalled the old times in Moscow and Moscow acquaintances.
There's also that great 19th c thing where they mention invitations from N.N. and S.S.. Is it improper to say names, or is it a fictive convention? After all, there are actual historical personages in this novel. I wonder why the initials?
Either way, Boris sounds a little insufferable.
Boris comes and at first leaves after 10 minutes, only talking to the countess, but can feel Natasha beaming at him. He keeps coming to visit intending to tell her how impossible it would be for them to marry, but he can't bring himself to say it. He has a brilliant career, great connections, and a girl he could marry in Petersburg, and to marry her with no money would be failure for him.
But he can't bring himself to say it. And he spends more and more time, entire days at the Rostovs's. And pissing off Helene in the process.
That doesn't actually bother me. I want that entire family to fail for some reason, though I suppose she's set with Pierre unless she becomes careless. One can hope.
Meanwhile - Natasha - we're all captivated
Sunday, June 6, 2010
And Berg, who is now obsessed with Vera, having claimed he would have her for a wife four years before. He proposes, and "after the first feelings of perplexity that Berg's proposal aroused in the parents, the festivity and joy usual on such occasions installed themselves in the family, yet the joy was not sincere, but external...It was as if they were ashamed that they loved Vera so little and were now so eager to get her off their hands"
Tolstoy describes Berg talking to a friend about the engagement " his comrade, who he called his friend only because he knew that all people had friends." Such a great way to put it, and Berg seems such a perfect match for the sour Vera. It's clear he expects money, and goes to the count to find out how much the dowry is. The count, of course, has spent through his daughter's inheritance. They've lost one property, defaulted on the mortgage of the other, and now only have one. So sad. They're sweet people. I hope this works out, because I have a feeling that Vera could make everyone's lives hell if it didn't. The count offers Berg and 80,000 ruble promissory note, but Berg says he's only take cash, and wants 30,000 up front. Or at least 20,000. Nice doing business with you.
It's funny, too, how Tolstoy puts in Berg's voice what he thinks of Natasha - "The other sister--same family, but something quite different, an unpleasant character, and none of that intelligence, and all that, you know?..It's unpleasant..."
Now, since we all love Natasha at this point, it's clear where T's sympathies lie. It's not that he stacks the deck - I don't think he dislikes his characters or creates villians. It's just clear who's unlikeable and why. Berg is unlikeable. So is Vera. They're great for each other, and they can dislike everyone else.
So - a series of journal entries from November 24th to December 9th. Also a chance for Pierre to just explore what an awful person he is, and how far he is falling short of ideals, especially when it comes to his wife and Boris Drubetskoy. (They, of course, are feeling no guilt, and T has made it clear if not explicit that something is going on. Pierre does not have guilty feelings of hatred toward Boris for nothing.
Pierre gets home, doesn't join anyone for dinner since he doesn't like the guests, but in spite of himself goes downstairs and tells a funny story. Everyone laughs and then he remembers he shouldn't have done it. Here's his prayer: "(1)to overcome the part of wrath by gentleness and slowness: (2) of lust by restraint and repulsion; (3) to withdraw from vanity, yet not lose the habit of (a)work in government service, (b) family cares, (c) friendly relations and (d) economic concerns."
Okay, that will be easy for him.
Indulged in laziness by lounging in bed. Bad Pierre! He has been given the duty of "rhetor", but feels unworthy. He speaks with another brother (since 3 & 7 are the numbers) of the seven pillars and seven steps of the temple, seven sciences, seven virtues, seven sciences, seven gifts of the holy spirit. I'm reading "Motherless Brooklyn" right now, and the detective with tourettes counts things - he's currently on the number six. This feels similar.
Anyhow, wouldn't you know that the person he has to receive first is Boris Drubetskoy. Of course, he feels that Boris is doing this for the wrong reasons, but he's the one who nominated him! He thinks Boris is only doing this for the connections. Ding, ding, ding, right answer!
Later he goes on a jag about how religious science is good, because it builds but human science fragments and kills everything in order to understand it. Here's a little of the religious science:
The Trinity - the three basic elements of thing - sulfur, mercury, and salt. Sulfur has the properties of oil and fire; united with salt, by its fiery quality, it arouses a craving in it through which it attracts mercury, seizes it, retains it, and together they produce separate bodies. Mercury is liquid and volatile spiritual essence - Christ, the Holy Spirit, He.
Far be it from me to pooh pooh this, but wha? I guess he has it straight for himself. I wonder if there's a test. He is truly spiritually searching, but it's sad to see that under all this, he's jealous, not in love with his wife, and taking all these actions to deny his feelings.
Imagining that he meets Dolokhov again, and what he should have said to him that he didn't. Angry, and unhappy about it. Then Boris comes in and he's rude to him. Feels bad about that. Then dreams about dogs attacking him, which he likens with his passions. He's a in a bad way.
Dreams now that he meets Ioseff Alexeevich again, who is now young. He's asking Pierre what his main "predeliction" is, and at base it's that he's not being a husband to his wife. Then he wakes up and gets a letter from his benefactor about marriage duties.
Another dream with Ioseff, who is now younger, and gives him a book with pictures of a beautiful woman who is in his mind the object/beloved in Songs of Songs. He feels bad about it.
This chapter should be titled, Pierre discovers more fundamentalism, and feels more fundamentally bad about himself. I'm still holding out hope for him. But, to borrow a Christian metaphor, he's still wondering in the desert.
I read a quote from CJ Jung that he believed every problem of anyone coming to him past the age of 35 could always and only be solved by a spiritual solution. I've also heard that in Indian society one starts to work on spiritual stuff after 40. And you're not supposed to study Kabbalah until you're 40. Maybe there's something to that. I'm turning 42 in 10 days, so perhaps its on my mind. In any case, Pierre is barely cracking 30, so I'm really worried about his future from this indication. Where can he go from here.
That said, I kind of identify with him. My brother's favorite character is Andrei, and I get admiring his power and touch with things. He's also well-liked by all the right people effortlessly, which can be so attractive in a character. Meanwhile, Pierre is just a lost orphan looking for someone to give him an answer. Inheriting all that money from the dying count (even though he was his father) was like winning the lottery. He was happy for a bit with Helene, but saw that there was emptiness at the center. And he's clueless in business. I'm crossing my fingers that this masonry stuff works out for him, but I can't help feeling he would be best matched with the big-eyes Marya, Andrei's sister. We'll see. sigh
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Then I may backdate.
Shock and horror. But it will feel a little more like one a day which is better than three on Sunday. So if you're reading this in the future, I may actually have written this before those entries. Trippy. Time and space, folding in on itself.
Or I may be overstating it. But for any of you (are there) who are following along simultaneously, look out for a few tomorrow.
I need all my faculties for this masonic stuff. It's as complicated as military strategy. So more on Pierre rubbing his stomach and patting his head tomorrow.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Pierre meanwhile, is becoming a known figure as an eccentric. He does not care who is who, and will become embroiled in a conversation no matter who else is in the room. My kind of guy.
He has done all this work to discover the realm of the spirit, so Helene's popularity surprises him, but he is not annoyed by all the machinations. And we're told during this time he has more revelations and understandings.
I'm just bummed he's with Helene again. Oh, well.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
A letter comes from his wife saying she will be in
In his masonhood, though, he uses the “no one is right and no one is wrong” argument to convince himself it doesn’t matter either way. Since he was thinking of other things, would it matter whether he lived with her or not?
He leaves to visit
I’m boiling it down here.
The second diary entry is from November 23rd, and he’s back with his wife, forgiving her for his own virtue. He also asks her to forgive him for his past sins. And now they’re living together again.
I’m not so into that, as I’m not a fan of Helene or of Vassily and their ilk.