I don’t think I can write about this anymore in the way I have been. Not that it’s not beautiful – it is. Volume IV, Book 1, has some of my favorite writing so far, and one of my favorite creations: Platon Karataev, who you have to meet. Pierre meets him in captivity. He lives in the moment in a way difficult to describe, and is a brilliant heart-warmer for the reader as much as he is for Pierre in a time when he’s needed.
“Every evening he said as he lay down: ‘Lord, lay me down like a stone, raise me up like a load’; in the morning, getting up, he always said, shaking his shoulders in the same way: ‘Lay down in a curl, got up in a whirl.’ And indeed he only to lie down in order to fall asleep at once like a stone, and he had only to shake himself in order to set about doing something at once, without a second’s delay, the way children, on getting up, take their toys….He sang songs not as singers do who know they are being listened to, but as birds do, apparently because it was necessary for him to utter those sounds…..He loved and lived lovingly with everything that life brought his way, especially other people—not any specific people, but those who were there before his eyes.”
He calls Pierre “little falcon” and says he is called that himself. He’s going down with Denisov for me as a character I’m most fond of in this book. It’s like a debater bringing in a new argument at the last minute – really, Tolstoy, you’re creating a new, thrilling, complete character this late in the game?
There’s also an incomprehensibly affecting scene of execution, where you can smell and taste the dirt the bodies are falling into – some of the most incredible writing in the book.
And the scenes between Nikolai and Marya, with his realization that he is falling completely in love with her and she with him, both in ways neither could expect or predict – beautiful.
And Sonya, having to do something truly self-sacrificing in a way she doesn’t want to, and we get to see more of who she is – I almost think T changes her in the last minute, but it’s more likely getting to know more fully someone who we’ve known a little. His characters keep surprising me – like real people I suppose.
And I don’t even want to get into what’s going on with Marya, Natasha, and Andrei.
There is also some more gorgeous writing on the liminal state lingering between life and death.
But why I am reluctant to write is that I’d have to tell you what happens. And I think you need to have your heart broken and blessed yourself. The payoff of spending this much time with a book, with knowing its people and its author, is getting to find out what happens yourself.
I’ll probably write some thoughts down, but into this volume and starting on Book 2, with so much major, major plot occurring with the characters, well, I just can’t spoil it for you.