Reading for Sunday, 12/10/08

By this stage in the book, Tolstoy has so many characters that he can combine them together in all manner of situations, which makes for fascinating reading.  But it is this combination of characters in this chapter that is probably the greatest of all.

In this chapter, the gloomy pessimistic Andrei meets the optimistic, full-of-life Natasha Rostov.

Of course, they couldn’t really have met any earlier.  Andrei was married at the beginning of the book, and going off to war.  Natasha was 12.  Things would have been somewhat complex, to put it mildly.

But, whether by Tolstoy’s plan, or whether the book just led him there – Boris has moved on and become completely inappropriate for Natasha.  And Andrei’s wife has died, leaving him free.

Of course, this is all very early stages, and I love the way that he is getting interested in Natasha, but misinterprets all the signals.  He keeps noticing her, and thinks it’s because he’s wondering why she’s so happy.  But when, towards the end of the chapter, he voices the thought that “For her I might as well not exist!” we realise that there are deeper things stirring than curiosity . . .

But all this will be played out in time.

See you tomorrow.

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4 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 6.2 – Connections

  1. Yes, Matt, the crossing of paths here between Andrei and Natasha really is just perfectly timed.

    After all the grim bleakness of Andrei’s encounter with the old oak tree in the last chapter, this chapter really is a breath of fresh air – in every sense. I don’t know why, but when I first read War and Peace, it had never occurred to me to wonder what it would be like for the pure and exuberant innocence of Natasha to cross paths with the tired and embittered cynicism of Andrei. But now, reading it for the second time, it seems that their paths just had to cross and, as always, I think Tolstoy does a masterful job in describing it, with every nuance of Andrei’s reactions and feelings captured so well.

    I’m sure that anyone who has felt weary of the world, in the way that Andrei does, knows what it’s like to see that totally unabashed, unaffected, unpretentious happiness that is so much a part of Natasha’s character, and to feel in a way saddened by it, and by how alien it is.

    This scene is actually the one that opens Prokofiev’s opera of War and Peace. Just that fact alone is pretty amazing when you stop and think about it – here we are, already at page 420 (in my Pevear/Volokhonsky edition) and yet we are just at the beginning of the opera version, which is itself a pretty epic opera, lasting for something like four hours. In this scene in the opera Natasha and Sonya sing a ravishingly beautiful duet – just one of many terrific moments in an opera which I think is very unjustly neglected, although I imagine it’s a nightmare to stage.

  2. Yes, Matt, the crossing of paths here between Andrei and Natasha really is just perfectly timed.

    After all the grim bleakness of Andrei’s encounter with the old oak tree in the last chapter, this chapter really is a breath of fresh air – in every sense. I don’t know why, but when I first read War and Peace, it had never occurred to me to wonder what it would be like for the pure and exuberant innocence of Natasha to cross paths with the tired and embittered cynicism of Andrei. But now, reading it for the second time, it seems that their paths just had to cross and, as always, I think Tolstoy does a masterful job in describing it, with every nuance of Andrei’s reactions and feelings captured so well.

    I’m sure that anyone who has felt weary of the world, in the way that Andrei does, knows what it’s like to see that totally unabashed, unaffected, unpretentious happiness that is so much a part of Natasha’s character, and to feel in a way saddened by it, and by how alien it is.

    This scene is actually the one that opens Prokofiev’s opera of War and Peace. Just that fact alone is pretty amazing when you stop and think about it – here we are, already at page 420 (in my Pevear/Volokhonsky edition) and yet we are just at the beginning of the opera version, which is itself a pretty epic opera, lasting for something like four hours. In this scene in the opera Natasha and Sonya sing a ravishingly beautiful duet – just one of many terrific moments in an opera which I think is very unjustly neglected, although I imagine it’s a nightmare to stage.

  3. I listened to the opera once on CD, but I couldn’t really do it justice because there was no copy of the libretto in there (I borrowed it from a library, I think). I’m hoping to chase it down when I’ve finished reading the book.

    But I have heard that it is a nightmare to stage. Apparently, when the Sydney Opera House opened, it was War and Peace that they performed, but it was so horrendously expensive, that they’ve never done it again.

    Seems to me that we’re overdue . . .

  4. So, I guess Andrei didn’t think himself capable of falling in love on this lovely spring night, but it looks like he’s about to.

    This ‘girl’ he’s seeing and hearing, is Natasha Rostov, I’m guessing.

    I don’t follow opera of any kind (unless it’s ‘rock opera’, like Hair). But I will be keeping my eyes open for this in the Russian movie (if they include it).

    I have no characters to add to my count.

    537

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