Sunday, October 18, 2009

War and Peace, bits and pieces, and a few thoughts

I've almost finished reading War and Peace. All I've got left is 30-some pages of the second epilogue. Yes, there are two epilogues. I've finished all of the story and all that's left is what one Twitter follower warned me was "sermonizing". Yeah, pretty much. Analytical sermonizing. But I'm basically finished with the book. I liked it a lot. It's took me a little while to get used to keeping track of the characters, because they all have maybe three different names they are called, so for instance "Prince Andrew" might be called by his Russian last name on the next page, and the next by his familiar name, or something like that.

And I had quite a hard time getting both volumes from the library because they have the same number and they only sent me one. So I just requested it (again) on Mom's card, and I got the second volume. :) I could start on about the incompetency of the public libraries lately, but I'll refrain.

War and peace....well, some of the war parts were a little tedious, but not too bad. And the peace part was interesting, and the whole book is very well-written. It's one of those books that clearly shows you how the characters are feeling, plus Tolstoy throws in lots of good points, and ironic, amusing sentences that made me burst out laughing. I was dog-earring the pages all the while, and probably on average dog-earred it every eighth inch or so. Poor Volume 2 got it the hardest. It had been dog-earred before though, or I might have thought twice about bending the pages. As it was, I folded them gently. :)

So, here are some of the passages that I really liked or made me laugh. And maybe it's just me, or maybe some of them won't be funny out of context, so bear with me. :) I cut some names to try to avoid spoiling the story for people who haven't read it, but I'm not sure if it helped any.

"Touched that this statuesque princess could so change, Pierre took her hand and begged her forgiveness, without knowing what for. From that day the eldest princess quite changed towards Pierre and began knitting a striped scarf for him." --The knitting got me... :D

"I am very sorry you did not find me in yesterday. I was fussing about with Germans all day. We went with Weyrother to survey the dispositions. When Germans start being accurate, there's no end to it!" --True, true.

"Better quarters could have been found him, but Marshal Davout was one of those men who purposely put themselves in most depressing conditions to have a justification for being gloomy." --I think I've met people like that.

"Pfuel was one of those hopelessly and immutably self-confident men, self-confident to the point of martyrdom as only Germans are, because only Germans are self-confident on the basis of an abstract notion -science, that is, the supposed knowledge of absolute truth."

"M. de Beausset, the man so fond of travel, having fasted since morning, came up to the Emperor and ventured respectfully to suggest lunch to his Majesty.
'I hope I may now congratulate your Majesty on a victory?' said he.
Napoleon silently shook his head in negation. Assuming the negation to refer only to the victory and not to the lunch, M. de Beausset ventured with respectful jocularity to remark that there is no reason for not having lunch when one can get it."

"When loving with human love one may pass from love to hatred, but divine love cannot change. No, neither death nor anything else can destroy it." --Indeed.

"...the infantry of the belated columns...had started in due order and, as always happens, had got somewhere, but not to their appointed places."

"...the peasants Karp and Vlas...after the French had evacuated Moscow drove in their carts to pillage the town, and in general personally failed to manifest any heroic feelings..."

" 'Greatness', it seems, excludes the standards of right and wrong. For the 'great' man nothing is wrong, there is no atrocity for which a 'great' man can be blamed.

For us with the standard of good and evil given to us by Christ, no human actions are incommensurable. And there is no greatness where simplicity, goodness, and truth are absent." --Very good point!

"Not merely in these cases but continually did that old man -who by experience of life had reached the conviction that thoughts and the words serving as their expression are not what move people-use quite meaningless words that happened to enter his head."

"He had what the doctors termed 'bilious fever'. But despite the fact that the doctors treated him, bled him, and gave him medicines to drink -he recovered."

"That dreadful question, What for? which had formerly destroyed all his mental edifices, no longer existed for him. To that question, What for? a simple answer was now always ready in his soul: 'Because there is a God, that God without whose will not one hair falls from a man's head."

" 'What can one say or think of as a consolation?' said Pierre. 'Nothing! Why had such a splendid boy, so full of life, to die?'
'Yes, in these days it would be hard to live without faith...' remarked Princess Mary.
'Yes, yes, that is really true,' Pierre hastily interrupted her.
'Why is it true?' Natasha asked, looking attentively into Pierre's eyes.
'How can you ask why?' said Princess Mary. 'The thought alone of what awaits...'
Natasha without waiting for Princess Mary to finish, again looked inquiringly at Pierre.
'And because,' Pierre continued, 'only one who believes that there is a God ruling us can bear a loss such as hers and...yours.' "

"Now that he was telling it all to [her] he experienced the pleasure which a man has when women listen to him -not clever women who when listening either try to remember what they hear to enrich their minds and when opportunity offers to re-tell it, or who wish to adapt it to some thought of their own and promptly contribute their own clever comments prepared in their own little mental workshop- but the pleasure given by real women gifted with a capacity to select and absorb the very best a man shows of himself."

" 'But why, count, why?' she almost cried, unconsciously moving closer to him. 'Why? Tell me. You must tell me!'
He was silent.
'I don't understand your why, count,' she continued, 'but it's hard for me...I confess it. For some reason you wish to deprive me of our former friendship. And that hurts me.' There were tears in her eyes and in her voice. 'I have had so little happiness in life that every loss is hard for me to bear.... Excuse me, good-bye!' and suddenly she began to cry and was hurrying from the room.
'Princess, for God's sake!' he exclaimed, trying to stop her. 'Princess!'
She turned round. For a few seconds they gazed silently into one another's eyes -and what had seemed impossible and remote suddenly became possible, inevitable and very near." --Oww, very painful. And yet it ends well.

"All who had known Natasha before her marriage wondered at the change in her as at something extraordinary. Only the old countess with her maternal instinct had realized that Natasha's outbursts had been due to her need of children and a husband... " --Heehee.

"There were then as now conversations and discussions about women's rights, the relation of husband and wife and their freedoms and rights...but these topics were not merely uninteresting to Natasha, she positively did not understand them. These questions, then as now, existed only for those who see nothing in marriage but the pleasure married people get from one another, that is, only the beginnings of marriage and not its whole significance, which lies in the family." --Ahhh...I love it. :)

Pierre went to the children, and the shouting and laughter grew still louder. 'Come, Anna Makarovna,' Pierre's voice was heard saying, 'come here into the middle of the room and at the word of command, 'One, two,' and when I say 'three'... You stand here, and you in my arms- well now! One, two!...' said Pierre, and a silence followed: 'three!' and a rapturously breathless cry of children's voices filled the room. 'Two, two!' they shouted. 'This' meant two stockings, which by a secret process known only to herself Anna Makarovna used to knit at the same time on the same needles, and which, when they were ready, she always triumphantly drew, one out of the other, in the children's presence." --Yes, that is some knitting technique, no I don't know how to do it.

"...left alone, [they] also began to talk as only a husband and wife can talk, that is, with extraordinary clearness and rapidity, understanding and expressing each other's thoughts in ways contrary to all rules of logic, without premises, deductions, or conclusions, and in a quite peculiar way. Natasha was so used to this kind of talk with her husband that for her it was the surest sign of something being wrong between them if [he] followed a line of logical reasoning. When he began proving anything, or talking argumentatively and calmly and she, led on by his example, began to do the same, she knew that they were on the verge of a quarrel." --Ah, I started out the book being annoyed by Natasha and her flightiness, but I think I relate to her a lot better than to Princess Mary, the other main female in the book. Mary cries and mopes a bit too much most of the time, although she improved by the end too. Natasha, like me, wouldn't be likely to cry in front of people who hurt her, but to get angry instead, and then perhaps cry on her own when no one's around. All the same, she's a fictional character and I didn't empathize with her all the time, but I changed my opinion of her by the end of the book. And I SO argue like that. :D

"If history had retained the conception of the ancients it would have said that God, to reward or punish his people, gave Napoleon power and directed his will to the fulfillment of the divine ends, and that reply, would have been clear and complete. One might believe or disbelieve in the divine significance of Napoleon, but for anyone believing in it there would have been nothing unintelligible in the history of that period, nor would there have been any contradictions.
But modern history cannot give that reply. Science does not admit the conception of the ancients as to the direct participation of the Deity in human affairs, and therefore history ought to give other answers. Modern history replying to these questions says: you want to know what this movement means, what caused it, and what force produced these events? Then listen:" ---At this point Tolstoy launches into a fast-paced recapping of how history should retell the story, writing it all rather as an elementary school student, with lots of 'thens' and 'suddenly's & 'and's. :D

So, there you have it. Or, the condensed version from Book-A-Minute:

"History controls everything we do, so there is no point in observing individual actions. Let's examine the individual actions of over 500 characters at great length."

Ah, well...yes. But it was worth it. :D I found the constant harping on predestination rather fascinating.

And now I've got a good 6-10 years before I need to read it again. Thick books like that don't get re-read as often as some others. :)

Now that I've typed this all up and fought with the italics, I should maybe go to bed. The HTML code was giving me fits...I had to paste it into a document, remove all the code, and re-paste it into a blog post, adding italics properly. Sheesh. At least that worked. :/


Beth said...

Natalie said...

I think I'll try knitting one sock at a time first... :P