Monday, June 6, 2011

War and Peace

Yes, I read the whole thing. There are amazingly lyrical passages, and if you are in the mood for heavy doses of historical philosophy then you are in for a treat. The plot, such as it was, takes a backseat to the whole commentary on war thing. I guess I would rather have either a novel, with a plot, or a commentary on war, without the plot. I suppose by introducing a few families you get the personal effect of war. Instead of talking about casualties, he shows us people we know being killed.
But if it is an anti-war story you want I think All Quiet on the Western Front is much more effective.
I also felt like I was missing a good chunk of the story because of not being Russian. The characters would laugh at odd times, or react in ways that seemed to highlight their foreignness even as I was growing to like them. If I had more of a familiarity with the culture of that area I think I would have enjoyed it more.
I was always being pulled out of the story, either by the Russianness, or by the long diversions about war and history.
There were some bits that I liked. A few quotes really jumped out at me.
Yet in reality those personal interests of the moment so much transcend the general interest from being felt or even noticed. Most of the people at that time paid no attention to the general progress of events but were guided only by their private interests, and they were the very people whose activities at that period were most useful.
Those who tried to understand the general course of events and to take part in it by self-sacrifice and heroism were the most useless members  of society, they saw everything upside down, and all they did for the common good turned out to be useless and foolish.
And
a superfluity of the comforts of life destroys all joy in satisfying one's needs
and
We imagine that when we are thrown out of our usual ruts all is lost, but it is only then that what is new and good begins. While there is life there is happiness. There is much, much before us.

and
by loving people without cause he discovered indubitable causes for loving them.
There is definitely some good stuff there. The last two are my favorites. I like how a quote seems simple and obvious at the beginning then as you think more, maybe it is not so true, then you think more maybe it is. That complexity echos the complexity of Russian thought that I was barely beginning to see in this novel.
It was not my style of book, I prefer a different kind of novel, but I am glad I read it.

War and Peace. Leo Tolstoy. ebook edition

1 comment:

jendoop said...

I like the last two quotes too. The first one is too much to wrap my brain around at this time of night.

Congrats on reading it! It is not on my 'to do' list.