This is the funny thing about Tolstoy.  He can switch between providing great reams of minute detail and then cut to the chase at the blink of an eyelid.

So in this chapter, Natasha and her mother have a highly detailed conversation about Boris, with Tolstoy’s painstaking detail pointing out how Natasha is walking a fine line between being in the adult world (discussing marriage) and being in the child world (counting knuckles) at the same time.

Actually, regarding the knuckles, I was rather stoked, because ever since I read this in a book when I was about 10, I still to this day use my knuckles if I can’t remember how many days are in a particular month . . . so I was pretty stoked to find that in War and Peace, because I don’t remember it from last time.

And then, finally, after all this detail, a single brief paragraph suffices to outline the ultimate outcome of the Boris/Natasha relationship.  Very cleverly done.

See you tomorrow!

2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 6.13 – A Mother/Daughter Conversation

  1. I can’t say I’ve ever counted days or months on my knuckles – but if it’s good enough for Tolstoy, Natasha and you, Matt, then maybe I might just keep it in mind. It may be one of those little tricks that helps when dementia begins to set in.

    But what a lovely, intimate chapter this is – such a wonderful, warm and yet unusual picture of Natasha and her mother. I reckon it’s just perfectly written. Tolstoy could have had the two of them having exactly the same conversation soewhere else, somewhere more typical, like in a drawing room or something, and it would have lost all its magic. But having that giggly yet intimate chat, both childish and mature, as you point out Matt, on the bed, just seems to convey so much about the warmth of their relationship – perhaps most of all when Tolstoy tells us that these moments were the most favourite pleasures for both of them.

    But that last line, telling us about Boris, is one of those really amazing lines that Tolstoy seems to throw in from time to time – where a whole history of a character, or their place in the story, just suddenly changes in a few words. I guess that’s how things happen in life – some of the most decisive changes seem to happen in the blink of an eye: a few words, a single coversation, and someone who was once a central part of our lives is gone forever.

  2. I’ve never used my knuckles – and this is the first time I’ve ever heard of it.

    This is the only new name I have to add to my list:

    Cyril Matveich –

    “I know! Cyril Matveich… but he is old.”

    (I’d like to see a whole story on Natasha’s mother and Cyril.)


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