One-Year War and Peace 1.11 – Who Needs Older Sisters?

Today’s Chapter:

Garnett/Edmondson: 1.11

Maude: 1.14

I’m not sure why Vera cops such a beating from Tolstoy, but she does. Irritating to her mother, nasty to her brother and sister . . .

Being the oldest of five, I have some understanding of why she thinks she’s so important, but nobody really else seems to. Oh well . . . if she’s not that sympathetic, we’ll latch onto someone more interesting.

Like Boris’ mum . . . now working out how she can cadge some money from Pierre’s (dying) Dad to get her boy some army gear.

As a professional fundraiser myself, I’ve got to hand it to Anna for her guts. She can come and do cold-calling for me any day.

Thanks also to Dave E for his much more lucid explanation of the origin of Russian names than anything I could ever do. Of course, all this depends on which translation you have. I have a Garnett round the house, which Anglicises everything, so it’s Count and Countess Rostov. But I’ve also got a copy of the Maude translation, which retains the Russian naming conventions. It takes longer to get used to the latter, but I think I prefer that more authentic approach. What do you think?

Tomorrow’s Chapter:

Garnett/Edmondson: 1.12

Maude: 1.15

One-Year War and Peace 1.10 – K-I-S-S-I-N-G

No, seriously – kissing.  That’s what this chapter is all about.  Countess Rostov would be horrified.

By the way, if some of you have been wondering why the count is referred to as Count Rostov and his wife is Countess Rostova, it’s because in Russian, apparently your last name varies depending on your sex.  I guess in English it would be like calling Mr and Mrs Smith, Mr Smith and Mrs Smithette.

Which we’d never do . . .

Guess that’s why we’re not Russian.

Anyway, that’s my bit of Russian trivia for you.  And, as Dave E so rightly commented, in a novel that’s this long, and we’re only this far into, to start talking about things like being together forever on the eve of a major war is perhaps a bit dangerous . . . but then again, it’s these kind of things that epics are built on.  What will happen in four years time when Natasha is old enough for Boris?

Unless you’re a book-peeker (the lowest form of reader, who really does deserve to be either a) illiterate or b) only be allowed to read serialised stories in magazines), then you’ll just have to wait and find out in a few months.

Sorry, I should list today’s chapters, but I don’t have the books on me.  But it was one chapter for everyone today, so that should make it easy.  If you haven’t read about lots of kissing, then you’re not there yet.

One-Year War and Peace 1.9 – Teenage Romance?

Today’s Chapter:

Garnett/Edmondson: 1.9

Maude: 1.12

. . . and you were probably just thinking that what this story needed was a bit of teen romance.  (After all, how else are we supposed to wean the younger generation off Hilary Duff movies and onto serious literature?)

So, in this chapter, we discover that not only have Sonya and Nikolay got a thing for each other, but Natasha and Boris do as well . . . (which I’ve designated with cute pink lines on the MindMap)

For the girls reading it . . . enjoy.  For the guys . . . I promise, there are some muskets and cannons in this book a bit further down the track . . . promise.  You might even meet Napoleon.

Tomorrow’s Chapter:

Garnett/Edmondson: 1.10

Maude: 1.13

One-Year War and Peace 1.8 – The Kids Arrive

Today’s Chapter:

Garnett: 1.8

Maude: 1.11

And today we meet some more (not all, believe it or not) of the Rostov kids.

There’s Nikolay (Nicholas), the oldest – the student. Note, also, that we finally meet Boris Drubetskoy – the soldier. I know it sounded from all the previous chapters as if he should have been in his mid-20s, but when he finally appears, he’s just a teenager. And, he’s been living with the Rostov family.

Then, of the younger kids, there’s Natasha – who gets most of the limelight in this chapter by giggling a lot – and Petya, the youngest.

I don’t really need to say more about these, because the novel now veers off to talk about these kids in the next few chapters, so we can talk more about that then. However, I’ve added the now extended Rostov family to the MindMap.

Tomorrow’s Chapter

Garnett: 1.9

Maude: 1.12

One-Year War and Peace 1.7 – Naming Conventions and Name Days

Today’s Chapter:

Garnett/Edmondson: 1.7

Maude: 1.10

Today’s chapter would be relatively straightforward, if not for the rather confusing habit of characters being referred to by multiple names . . . which makes it all rather confusing.

First of all – you might remember a couple of days ago we read about Boris Drubetskoy’s mum. In full, her name is Anna Mihalovna Drubetskoy, but she’s more often referred to as Anna Mihalovna. However, Boris (who will appear soon) is usually referred to as Boris Drubetskoy. The logic behind the names is that the middle name tells everyone who your father was. So Anna Mihalovna would be, roughly, in English, something like “Anna, daughter of Mihal, Drubetstkoy”. Does that all make sense? For the most part, you just need to keep in mind that Anna Mihalovna and Princess Drubetskoy are one and the same . . .

The scene then changes to the city of Moscow, and we at the estate of the Rostov family. (Yes, I know, you were just thinking there weren’t really enough characters to keep this story moving, weren’t you?) The Rostovs are a fairly complex family tree, but we’ll keep it simple for starters. (Speaking of family trees – while I was taking great delight in keeping the MindMap looking as much like a dog’s breakfast as possible – I’ve now grouped the Rostovs, Bolkonskys and Kuragins by family tree, which might make things a bit easier on the eye. Let me know what you think.

Anyway, we meet Count Rostov and his wife. And they have some sons and daughters. (We’ll get into how many as we go along.) They’re all about to have a big party (in case you think all these parties are a bit dreary, it must be remembered that this is what the Russian aristocracy does for fun – what else do you do when you’re not really working?)

The party, in this case, is a name day. This simply meant that when it was the holy day of the Russian Orthodox saint who you were named after, you got to celebrate a special day (like a birthday). If you think of it as being like a second birthday, you’ve got the idea.

In this case, it’s Saint Natalya, and Countess Rostov and her youngest daughter are celebrating their name day on the same day. However, to be extra confusing, the youngest daughter (who will appear tomorrow), almost always is referred to as Natasha. Simple, really.

Anyway, if you kept track of the chapter, we see that Anna Bolkonsky’s entreaty to Prince Vassily worked (or part of it) and she got her son, Boris, an upgrade in the army. In the meantime, the Countess Karagin (who I can’t remember if she becomes important later) and her daughter show up, and during the ensuing conversation, we find out that Pierre and his mates actually got themselves into a fair bit of trouble with the Petersburg police following on from the bender where we left them.

Information aside, the thing to look out for in this chapter, and the ones that follow, is the contrast between the Rostov name-day and the Scherer soireé. Whereas Anna Scherer’s gathering was quite cold and pretentious, by contrast, the Rostov family is warm and friendly. Look at how Count Rostov welcomes everyone, and encourages them to stay for dinner. He even finds the tale of Pierre amusing.

Yes, the Rostovs are quite a different crowd of aristocrats altogether . . .

How are we all going out there? Have we worked out which version we’ve got, and what chapters we’re supposed to be up to?

Tomorrow’s reading:

Garnett/Edmondson: 1.8

Maude: 1.11

One Year War and Peace 1.6 – The Tolstoy Eleven + Chapter Number Confusion

Hi everyone,

First off, I want to say that we now have 11 people taking part in the Tolstoy challenge (not including myself).

In Sydney:

  • Dave P
  • Bruce M
  • Nathain S

In Brisbane:

  • Damien F
  • Christina F
  • Damien’s sister
  • Dave E
  • My sister Rachel

In Melbourne:

  • Chris W
  • Janine W
  • Adam L

So that’s quite exciting . . .

However, was talking to Dave P tonight and he just pointed out to me that I was giving away spoilers of upcoming chapters (thus breaking my no-spoilers rule) because I was talking about stuff that hadn’t happened yet.

Thinking, I’d miscounted, I went and did some research on the net – it appears (horror of horrors) that there are a different number of War and Peace chapters depending on which English translation you are reading.

I have two in my house – one by Constance Garnett and the other by Rosemary Edmondson (a Penguin Classics edition) and that’s the chapter numbers that I’ve been working to. (That also is the chapter count that fits into the one-year plan.)

However, some of you may be working off the translation by Louise & Aylmer Maude. If that is the case, then you have the five minutes a day translation, because it has more chapters. It doesn’t have more content (you haven’t got a secret “Director’s Cut” edition), but it does split some of the longer chapters (like mine today . . .) into more chapters.

What I’m going to do (because I started it and I can) is stick to the Garnett and Edmondson chapter numbers. However, I will look up the Maude chapter numbers on Project Gutenberg and post them online every day, so you know where you should be up to.

The bad news . . . if you have been reading the Maude translation, you are now four chapters behind everyone else. What was chapter 6 for me was chapter 9 in the Maude translation, so you may have a bit of catching up to do. (This now reminds me also why I remember the chapters being shorter last time I read it – which was years ago, when I had a scruffy old copy of the Maude translation, which I have since either given away or done something else with it . . . I obviously should have kept it.)

So, depending on how quickly you read, you may find that today’s reading is closer to 15 minutes than 10.

But, anyway, you should be up to Chapter 9 of the Maude, Chapter 6 for everyone else.

If you haven’t read that far yet, then you might want to come back later to miss the spoilers below . . .

If you’re all caught up, Andrei and Pierre have got back to Andrei’s place to have a chat about life, marriage, etc. and Andrei has come out with the jaw-dropping quotable quote for the day: “Never, never marry, my dear fellow; that’s my advice to you; don’t marry till you have faced the fact that you have done all you’re capable of doing, and till you case to love the woman you have chosen, till you see her plainly, or else you will make a cruel mistake that can never be set right, etc.”

I always have to chuckle when I read that line, to think that a young man could get so jaded, so fast.  (You never know – Leo Tolstoy might actually have believed this stuff.  He got married quite late in life, to a girl who was 16 years younger than he was.)

Andrei’s rant about the horrors of marriage and high society is entertaining reading enough, but we then come to one of the most memorable scenes in the whole book – well, actually, there’s lots and lots of memorable scenes – but this is one of the ones that you’ll remember at the end of it all.

Pierre, despite his promise, heads off to a drinking spree with Prince Vassily’s ratbag son, Anatole.  You’d think that finally reading about Anatole in person (after hearing about his reputation in chapter 1) would be a big deal – but no.  He’s only introduced for a paragraph, and then straightaway is eclipsed by an even bigger ratbag – Dolohov (now added to the MindMap).

Whenever he appears, Dolohov will engage in the kind of jaw-dropping scoundrelness that makes the chapter come alive.  In this, his first appearance, he engages in a life and death wager regarding a bottle of rum and a window sill . . .

To make it easier, I’ll also introduce a Tomorrow’s Reading feature for those of you with the Maude numbering and those with the regular numbering.  That way you can keep up with me.

Tomorrow’s Reading (Regular): Chapter 7.

Tomorrow’s Reading (Maude): Chapter 10.

DVD Review: SeaChange

It’s taken Rachel and I about three years to work through this series but we last night finally finished the third and final season of SeaChange.  I know I posted on the first couple of seasons on the blog a while back, and I wasn’t disappointed by the third season.

I think the only thing I’d add is that I think this is the best Australian TV ever created.  While it’s light and fluffy in a lot of respects, coming as it did at the tail end of the 90s (a decade marked by a lot of cynicism and darkness in film and television), this show had its finger on the pulse of what the average Australian really wants in life.  (Or at least the average white Australian.)

The writers displayed a deep understanding of Aussies – what makes us happy, what makes us sad.  The sense of humour, the portrayal of a close-knit community where everyone pulls together – it was something that everyone could relate to.

You may not agree with everything that happens on the show, and certainly the awkwardness of modern life is portrayed very well – broken marriages, a shifting attitude towards the law.  But overriding it is a concern that we all learn to get along and support one another.  Is that really what seaside towns are like? I don’t know.  But it’s a far cry from what we have in the cities.

If you haven’t seen this show yet, do see it.  5 out of 5.

One-Year War and Peace 1.5

And, finally, the location of the novel shifts . . . whew! . . . for a while there it felt as if we were going to be stuck at the soireé for a couple of weeks.

It’s in this chapter, that we get our first inkling at what might be underlying Andrei’s bitterness towards the high society circles. Ippolit flagrantly chats up of Andrei’s wife, Lise – something which she doesn’t seem to overly object to.

Is there something going on between these two? It’s not exactly clear – after all, Lise is popular with everyone, and Ippolit is an idiot. But Andrei’s world-weary acceptance of it indicates that this is the sort of thing that goes on all the time. (And, at least in Tolstoy’s depiction of the aristocracy, adultery was often going on under the surface and tacitly acknowledged in the parlour-room gossip . . . which we shall hear more about in due course.)

But, hopefully, it gives us a clue as to why Andrei despises everyone at Anna Scherer’s, but yet has time for Pierre. Not because Pierre is an equal companion for him in terms of intellect and maturity – he’s not. But he’s honest, and Andrei appreciates that.

At least, that’s my thinking – what’s your reading of the whole Lise/Ippolit event?

We also find out more about Pierre’s back story, and why he is in St Petersburg . . .

Also, have updated the MindMap to include the Lise/Ippolit subplot.

One-Year War and Peace 1.4 – Conversation About Politics

I think my favourite quote from this chapter (and there were a few), would have to be: “Influence in the world is a capital, which must be carefully guarded if it is not to disappear.”

But the highlight of the chapter would be the discussion about Napoleon – is he a good guy or a bad guy?  I’d have to do my own research on that particular question, but I think what’s amusing is the way the conversation progresses.

Like any gathering of people that talk about politics – whether it be liberals or conservatives – talking about politics and freedom of speech always seem to be encouraged until you get someone who holds the opposite view.

I can completely identify with Pierre’s blunder of speaking up boldly about his views on Napoleon in the middle of that soireé.  While his views may be misguided, it’s not his political opinion that’s at issue so much as the fact that he dared to breathe a different opinion to everyone else.

So when Ippolit (Hippolyte) tells his absolutely stupid tale about the female coachman, this is considerably more acceptable to the crowd than anything Pierre might say.  Luckily for Pierre, Andrei (in an uncharacteristic moment of kindness) rescues him from the crowd.  I’ll talk more about the relationship between Andrei and Pierre in another post.

In the meantime, we were also introduced to Princess Drubetskoy, who was lobbying for her son, Boris.  Also, there was a bit of information given as a throwaway that might be important later – and that is that Prince Vassily is related to Pierre’s dad. . . So, for those two new things, the MindMap has been updated accordingly.

One-Year War and Peace 1.3 – The Mind Map

Sorry, everyone . . . had a huge day at work, and didn’t get to post when I wanted to.

I won’t make much more comments about this chapter (I think it kind of speaks for itself), though if you have your favourite moments or descriptions, feel free to comment them up.

Actually, the real reason I’m not going to go on about this chapter is that I spent all my time that I would have spent waffling in creating, especially for Dave E, a War and Peace Mind Map. It’s a bit of a work in progress, so it’s only going to get bigger as time rolls along . . . which is a bit of a pity, because it’s already looking like a dogs breakfast after only three chapters . . .