Reading for Thursday 16/10/08

And here we have more description of the interactions between Bolkonsky and Speranski.  I won’t go into all the details, but I recognised myself a bit in this chapter.  Probably two things:

1) Andrie’s dissatisfaction that when he is in the city, he can carry on all these intellectual conversations, but it’s all just recycling the things that he thought about while he’s in the country.  This is so true.  It’s only when you take a break from everything and get some headspace that you can come up with the original thoughts that will sound good when you’re talking to other people.  However, if you spend your entire time hanging around with other people, you’ll never have any original thoughts.

That’s why I find people who are non-stop socialisers to be somewhat inane . . . You need other people to discuss ideas with, but you need solitude to think up ideas.  And certainly the amusing notion that anything intelligent that Andrei did say was something that he’d already said to half a dozen people over the last few days is very amusing.  That’s me.  I come up with one thought, and find myself using it about half a dozen times in different conversations . . . all the time hoping that these people don’t run into one another and realise that I’ve only been recycling the same conversation . . .

2) The delight that Andrei and Speranski take in having their intelligent conversations with one another and feeling superior to everyone else.  I’m trying to break this habit, but I must admit that in my younger days, there have been several occasions where I’ve taken some pleasure in feeling like I know more than – well, at least than whoever else we’re talking about.  (You notice how these conversations rarely bring up the people that you feel inferior to?)

Hmm . . . this is all a bit rambly, and it may only make sense to me.

Ah well, we’ll be back tomorrow with Pierre, so this will give us a change of pace, anyway.  See you then!

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2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 6.6 – Intellectual Discussions

  1. I wouldn’t beat myself up too much, Matt, if I were you – I think we all know what it’s like to feel a bit of intellectual snobbery from time to time, and I think a lot of us find, as each year passes, how much we in fact don’t know after all.

    For me, nn this Chapter Tolstoy not only continues to paint a very human picture of Speransky, but he at the same time gives us a very compelling insight into the way Prince Andrei (like many of us) view our heroes (political/intellectual/religious/etc). I think most of us (or, at least, many of us) like to have heroes – people we idolise, people we see as having unique insights into everything. I think Tolstoy perfectly portrays here the relationship we have with those people – while wanting to admire everything about them on the one hand, we also want to put ourselves alongside them by disagreeing with them at times, too. And then there are always things about them, little things, that irritate us – and, precisely because we idolise them, those irritations are all the more irritating. It’s as if you notice people’s blemishes a lot more when they’re standing on a pedestal.

    So that’s what I got out of this chapter – a very insightful look at the whole phenomenon of heroes.

  2. Well, it’s a nice passage on human nature – I myself find myself kind of idolizing this Speransky guy . . . but I have this feeling about him. There’s something creepy about him. Yet the way Tolstoy describes him, he seems to have everything together – the answers to everything.

    We can name plenty of people in our lives who seemed like that to us. How devastating it is when we see them a lesser individuals . . .

    There’s only one person being added to my count:

    Rosenkampf –

    On that first evening Bolkonski spent with him, having mentioned the Commission for the Revision of the Code of Laws, Speranski told him sarcastically that the Commission had existed for a hundred and fifty years, had cost millions, and had done nothing except that Rosenkampf had stuck labels on the corresponding paragraphs of the different codes.

    550

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