Reading for Tuesday 30/09 – 5.11
This whole Book 5 (or whatever it’s called in your particular version) is rather fascinating because it becomes much more spiritual and philosophical than anything that has gone before. I actually think it’s somewhat amusing, because if somebody tried to run this past a publisher today, they’d probably want to trim all this stuff out.
But it’s chapters like these that just add to the beauty of the whole book. However, that said, you have to keep your head screwed on to read chapters like this. Because Tolstoy sets up two quite opposing points of view, neither of which is exactly correct (but both have elements of truth) and leaves you, the reader, to decide what you agree with.
So Pierre, for instance, believes in helping others and is trying to make that the point of his life. Andrei, being the devil’s advocate, is saying that while it’s nice in principle, really, do the people you’re helping care that much? Aren’t you really just doing it to keep yourself happy? In which case, why not just be selfish anyway?
What I also find fascinating about this chapter is that these kind of discussions really only happen when you have close friendships. Have a look at the trivial rubbish they talk about in the drawing rooms of Anna Scherer compared with this kind of conversation. (Partly the reason Pierre never fit in – he couldn’t do rubbish small talk.)
It’s very much like that in today’s world. We have to know people pretty well before we’ll talk with them about the deep meaning of life or any of these kinds of philosophical issues.
So, in a broader sense, beyond the philosophy in the chapter, we’re actually seeing a picture of friendship. We saw a glimpse of it back at the beginning of the whole book, when Pierre and Andrei were having their discussion about marriage. But now, after a couple of years of experience for the both of them, it is actually nice to see them together again as friends.