Reading for Saturday 11/10/08

Just a reminder that if you’re reading the Wordsworth Maude War and Peace you need to read 5.22 and 6.1 together.

For the rest of you, Tolstoy kicks off this chapter with those amazing few paragraphs that jump us over two whole years of Russian history.  It’s a bit strange, considering that we’ve been following the events almost in real time so far – but two years it is, and we end up in 1809 with the Russians actually aiding the French to attack Austria . . . a strange world.

But as always – and this is so true – regardless of the world situation, real life rolls on.

Which brings us nicely back to Andrei, who has successfully freed a lot of his serfs and is achieving major reforms – but feels no happiness.

I don’t know how many writers have read the passage about the oak tree – still dead amidst all the trees bursting into spring – and wished that they could have written that passage.  It takes us right into Andrei’s soul.

But have you ever felt like that?  Around you, life is going on, things seem to be happy – but for you, everything is at a standstill, and there doesn’t feel like much chance of anything.  (Reminds me of being a teenager, really.)

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7 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 6.1 – Real Life & Andrei

  1. Ah yes, Matt …. I have, and I suspect most people have, experienced the bleak, dead feelings that are portrayed so strongly in this chapter and espcially in the passage about oak tree.

    I can’t think of anywhere where such a grim, depressing picture has been painted so well and even majestically as it is in this chapter, with Andrei’s thoughts about the barren oak tree in the middle of the newly green birch forest. It’s a tremendous image, and I remember being very struck by it when I first read War and Peace, but couldn’t remember how superbly the old oak tree was described until I read it again now.

    I think, for me, it’s the way the oak tree, while described as dead and old and gnarled, is somehow so much bigger and grander than all the new growth and beauty of the rest of the woods. So it’s not just that we see a spot of glumness in the middle of all the green and growth, but rather it towers above everything else, dominates it, and is even seen to be much wiser, much stronger than all the rest.

    That really is exactly how depression can feel when you’re in the midst of it – everything that’s good seems insignificant and false by comparison. It’s an ugly, horrible way to feel – but here Tolstoy expresses with such poetry, that you can’t help but feel that even those feelings, like the old oak tree, have their place.

  2. Here’s something that I didn’t know before – I went to look at the Russian film on U-Tube and took note of the main character parts, and who plays them.

    I’m probably not the first person who’s noticed this, but it amused me to see that Sergei Bondarchuk (who is the director of that film) is also the person who plays the part of Pierre.

    [IMG]http://i107.photobucket.com/albums/m320/WildCityWoman/SergeiBondarchuk.jpg[/IMG]

    http://www.russia-ic.com/people/general/b/210/

    Here’s a film about Sergei . . .

    …………………………………..

  3. I’m catching up on watching that film – watched a few flicks of it before, but deliberately clicked outta’ there, ‘cause I didn’t want to distract myself from reading and listening to the actual book.

    Here’s the Russian version at U-Tube – Part II

    …………………………………..

    In that second part Lise says to Andrei ‘What have I done to you?’
    I had forgotten that . . . when she died back in Book 5, that’s what she seemed to be saying at the end of her life – that’s what Andrei thought she seemed to be saying.

    …………………………………..

  4. Well, enough of that – on with this chapter . . .
    I love the way the old oak tree stands and sees to say ‘what? You’re still falling for all this nonsense about spring? Think it’s going to be any different?’
    …………………………………..
    PETER – Peter the Footman

    Peter the footman made some remark to the coachman; the latter assented. But apparently the coachman’s sympathy was not enough for Peter, and he turned on the box toward his master.

    (Notice something . . . in Book 2, his ‘man was named Peter’. I don’t think it’s the same person though – this was when he’d just found his men – on the battlefield)

    And God only knows where your man Peter is,” said the other adjutant.

    Book 2, Ch 13

    537

  5. For 9 years we lived in a house with a maple tree right out the front window. Every spring, it was absolutely the last tree on our street to sprout leaves, even with other maples present. My husband every spring would say how the tree was dead this time, and it really did look so. After a few springs, I had a bit more faith that the tree was gonna be all right. I could really feel this passage because of that tree.

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