Today’s Chapter:

Garnett/Edmondson: 1.20

Maude: 1.23

And so now we move into the final reunion between Pierre and his father.  Like all Tolstoy, it’s understated.  No words pass between them.  Is his father really glad to see him?  Is he past all that?  It’s never really made clear (though, obviously, the background from the last couple of chapters has made us realise how much the Count does love Pierre).  In fact, the whole scene is a bit surreal – but I’m sure that those of you out there (and it’s never been me yet, fortunately), who have waited by the bedside of someone who’s life is measured in days or hours, may have found that experience to be like that.  You don’t know, in those last hours, how much that person comprehends or understands.  Such is aging and death . . .

Should also say, while I’m at it, I appreciated the mention of the “subdued, deep bass singing” (or chanting) of the priests.  If you’ve never heard it, Russian Orthodox church music is quite an experience.  It headed in completely different directions from Western church music.  It all consists of one single melody line, with a lot of low, quiet harmonies underneath – so there’s none of the flashy parts intersecting in and out, like they do in baroque music.  There is no accompaniment from any instruments.

It rarely gets loud or fast.  It’s always slow and contemplative.  And this musical style continued well in
to the 20th century, until the introduction of Communism removed the Church from being part of Russian life.  Anyway, so if you get a chance to find a track or two of Russian Sacred Choral Music on iTunes, I’d give it a try.  You may not want to listen to heaps of it, but it’ll certainly be a different experience from anything you hear in churches in the West.  It’ll also give you the feel of the singing that was going on here in Count Bezukhov’s bedroom.

Anyway, my breakfast is ready . . . so I’ll see you all tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s Chapter:

Garnett/Edmondson: 1.20

Maude: 1.23

3 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 1.20 – A Dying Man and Russian Choral Music

  1. First of all, a note regarding # 19 . . .

    1.19 – Can’t find it – search leads me to 1.16, Cossacks & Hussars – that’s because it’s ‘Maude’s’ chapter 22

    My notes – Oct 1st 2k8

    Have listened through it – and am reading through it . . .

    I’m finding the following characters to add:

    Undertakers – two men, who looked like tradespeople – that’s who they’d be, the undertakers – the ones that are waiting, and hiding away when people come

    That makes it 78

    The footman and the coachman . . .

    Makes it 80

    Another footman – they ask him the way to the old man’s room . . .


    An old man, a servant of the princesses, sat in a corner knitting a stocking.


    A maid – Anna Mikhaylovna, addressing a maid who was hurrying past with a decanter on a tray as “my dear” and “my sweet,” asked about the princess’ health and then led Pierre along a stone passage.


    the count’s confessor


    “God be thanked that you are in time,” said she to one of the priests


    A strange lady, the one who had been talking to the priests, rose and offered him her seat


    an aide-de-camp picked up and returned a glove Pierre had dropped


  2. There’s 87 characters so far, including the ones I found in the chapter for which I could not find a blog (19 – Maude 22). There were other priests, other doctors eluded to, but they weren’t numbered, so I didn’t count ’em in.

    Pierre’s about to see his father . . . the poor guy, he doesn’t really want to do it. Anna M. is prompting him (sucking around, I’m sure).

    Sophie . . . the youngest princess – the one with the mole


    the old servant who was holding the count’s hand


    Another servant – “Catch hold of my arm or you’ll drop him!” he heard one of the servants say in a frightened whisper.


    You know, I didn’t really see the point of them moving the poor old guy around, just for the sake of all this ritual with the last rights and seeing Pierre, etc.

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