So, I started reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace on January 1, via Serial Reader. My goal is to finish it by the end of April.
And I’ll be honest: so far, I’m not loving it. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, and most of them are pretty unsympathetic. It doesn’t help that a preponderance of them are referred to as princes and princesses. Also, in many instances, facial expressions are described with “as ifs,” something I find highly annoying:
“Prince Vasili’s two valets were busy dressing him, and he looked round with much animation and cheerfully nodded to his son as the latter entered, as if to say: ‘Yes, that’s how I want you to look.'”
I guess the “as ifs” were the simplest way to translate the Russian to English, at the time the version I’m reading was translated. But I really don’t care enough about the story or the characters to get a better understanding. I’m satisfied with just the suspicion that there must be some nuance to the Russian language that is lost to me.
And speaking of unsympathetic characters — one of the main ones, Pierre, ties a policeman to a bear early on in the story. Yes, a bear: the big, shaggy, omnivorous, plantigrade mammal. I’m not even sure how this is done, because it’s only referenced in the past tense, as the event that gets Pierre thrown out of Saint Petersburg. I’m having a hard time getting that vision out of my head.
But, the reading experience is not without some benefits:
- I’ve been much more engaged and enlightened by the war scenes (over the peace scenes, which mostly take place in society parlors and the like). I’ve learned that a unicorn was a type of Russian cannon from the 18th and 19th centuries.
- I’m pretty sure I’ve never read any Russian literature before. I’m all for expanding my frame of reference, even if the experience is not 100% pleasurable. There’s some sort of lesson in the discomfort, but I’m not sure what it is yet.
- The settings are like a fantasy to me. I’ve never been to the parts of the world where the book has taken me (Moscow, Saint Petersburg, parts of Austria), nor have I ever lived in a snowy place. There’s a scene where old man Bolkonsky (Prince Bolkonsky) has snow shoveled back onto the road to discourage the above-referenced Prince Vasili’s visit. It was kind of funny, and it’s what I was thinking about when I chose the image featured above.
I’m sure I’ll have more to say about War and Peace in future posts. That’s it for now!
3 thoughts on “War and Peace: 19%”
I just saw your note on Abbey bulletin board requesting prayers for Jerry. Glad to hear from his text that he is doing better each day . Also grieving loss of three classmates this past week. Came early yesterday to hitch a ride to close friend and classmate,Father Paul ‘s funeral in Opelousas. The other two deaths were Roman classmates, and one of them came to our class reunion in Chicago in October. Part of old age, but I asked the good Lord to please space them a little further apart. So glad to have the Abbey as a place to crash and grieve. Thanks for your interesting post and Ministry of writing. Pardon typos and poor English, since I use the mic and miss some of the errors. Peace Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android
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