Monday, June 27, 2011


“The most strong, indissoluble, burdensome, and constant connection with other in people is the so-called power over other people, which in its true meaning is only the greatest dependence on them.”

I finished.

It was really a year and 5 months - of one of the greatest books I’ve ever read. And by great I mean great in theme and scope. Unmatched in scope, possibly.

I won’t spoil it, still, though there’s so much in the last volume and the first epilogue to talk about plot-wise, what the characters discover through what they go through, but the eventual destiny of those characters should be yours to discover.

The second epilogue is dedicated to Tolstoy’s view of history, basically that there is no such thing as freedom. He doesn’t go so far as to call is predestination as he does in the Appendix, which was written before the Epilogue, but he argues that there are no absolutes. Without those absolutes, be it freedom or dependence, any study of history is doomed to be partial, incorrect. As he states, we can never know concretely why large groups of people do anything. One man, Napoleon, is not responsible for all that happened during this time, though historians want to make it so.

Brilliantly, the breadth of this book, the humanity, the god’s-eye-view, are the best argument for his thesis. It’s incredible to say, but his characters are so real we don’t know them; like our friends and family we end up feeling so close to them that we can guess at, yet still be surprised by, their actions. He has created true people here, which is the greatest feat. They are not simple, not needlessly complex. With a few lucky ones, we see them grow into themselves, and can feel compassion for how they got there. They are fascinating.

I’ll miss them. I have a feeling I’ll be visiting them again.   Maybe doing some more writing as things occur to me.  And maybe with those I'll just post spoiler alerts.

There’s so much more to say, but really only one thing – read the book. Then we’ll talk.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Epilogue 1

Still reading. About 70 pages from the end. It’s bittersweet.

So much of what I’m reading makes me want to write about, savor it, share it. But so much would ruin anyone’s experience of reading it themselves, and that’s paramount.

I am deeply in love with this book. I’m kind of amazed, actually. There will be things I won’t forget – images that make me sigh, make me wince, make me tear up.

Beyond all of these is the sheer breadth of it. What a master. How sweet it is spending so much time with these people. And though an image is worth a thousand words, and I love film, I can’t believe the singular experience of reading this, especially taking so much time, could ever be duplicated.

I was thinking the other day that the wonderful thing about reading is this interface with one’s own imagination. My Natasha, Nikolai, Pierre, Andrei, Marya, my burning Moscow, my Bald Hills, my drunken Denisov will be unlike anyone else’s. But the common thread will be that same feeling when Natasha is right above Andrei in the window and it’s Spring and he’s afraid to breathe for fear of destroying the moment; that same feeling when Natasha and Nikolai go hunting and spend time at their Uncle’s house, with Natasha screaming and laughing for no reason; when Pierre is marching with no shoes, hearing a friend shot by French soldiers as he must walk on.

The book is soaked in religion and romance, but it still pulls a thread through with a humanity unlike very few books I have ever read. I’m sad to say good-bye, knowing in about 70 pages I’ll have to.