Reading for Monday 20/10/08

Well, there we go – I’ve almost caught up.  This chapter is very cleverly written, because Tolstoy disappears for the whole thing.  Normally, his rather calm style of story-telling is like a third character in between us and the characters.  But when it turns to Pierre’s diary, there is no one to interpret what is going on.  It’s just purely his mind, in all its twisted anguish.

But it’s a surprisingly good chapter, because it is so personal.  All sorts of issues, such as Pierre’s loneliness, the fact that he knows he’s been wronged by Dolokhov in the past and now Boris, the increasing superficiality of the Masons he knows and his sex life – all of these are covered in the letter – but through the lens of his dreams and conversations with old Joseph (or Osip or Iosif, depending which translation you have).  What’s even more surprising than all this is that the chapter culminates in kind of a maximum state of confusion for Pierre – but then next chapter we’re going back to the Rostovs!

So we’re going to be left hanging for a bit here.

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3 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 6.10 – Pierre’s Diary

  1. I reckon this must be perhaps the strangest, most surreal chapter so far – delving, as it does, not only into Masonic metaphysics (a world made of sulphur, mercury and salt???) but also into the even stranger world of Pierre’s dreams.

    What I saw in this Chapter was the dreadful struggles and self-doubts that a person can feel when their life begins to be dominated by dogma and edicts that are somehow removed from their real experience of life, and where there is a disjuncture between what a person believes, and what they experience. We saw it at one level in the whole scene where Pierre has to lead Boris through the Masonic initiation ritual and then, at a whole other level, in his dreams, with all those inner struggles, which become almost homoerotic at one point, with Pierre longing to caress Iosif, tranformed into a young man, lying alongside him in his bed. I suspect that’s the closest 19th century Russian literature ever got to gay erotica!!

    I don’t know if this chapter is Tolstoy’s commentary on dogmatic religion, or on human passion, or on both. But, in any event, I reckon it presented the tension between the two almost spookily well – perhaps most potently of all in the final lines where Pierre feels totally deserted by his God, and totally unsure whether it is himself, or God, who is responsible for that. No matter what a person’s beliefs might be, I think they have known times where that struggle and confusion have been just as potent as they are now for Pierre.

    And how (and what) was the concert, Matt?

  2. Hi Ian,

    The concert in question was the Jerusalem Quartet, who are an astonishingly good string quartet from (surprise, surprise) Jerusalem. They performed a particularly good rendition of Smetana’s “From My Life” String Quartet.

  3. Wow! That dream he had about wanting to lie down with Joseph . . . so is it a homosexual dream? Or just spiritual?

    Urusov –

    Brother Urusov came and we talked about worldly vanities.

    (Brother A, Brother V, etc. I don’t know if I should be ‘counting them’. They’re probably people I’ve already counted anyway.)

    554

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