This is another pretty self-explanatory chapter, but it is remarkable, because it’s the first time in the whole book (and what are we up to now – Book 6 out of 15?) where Tolstoy has given us some genuine romance.

Despite the fact that the whole book of War and Peace started with Prince Vasili and Anna Scherer conspiring to marry his kids off, we very quickly realised that the vast majority of marriages and relationships in War and Peace are not really fun places at all.

Andrei’s marriage seemed dreadfully strained, Pierre’s relationship with Helene seems to have been a train wreck waiting to happen, Boris & Natasha was a bit childish – well, okay, there is the Sonya/Nikolai romance, which is more like the genuine article – but I think Nikolai has to grow up a bit.

But when these two get together – Andrei and Natasha – for that dance, it’s like the stars have aligned.  Contrast it with the rather cold mechanical description of Helen’s dance.  With Andrei and Natasha, it’s much more than dance.  It’s a romance.  (In real life, you or I would probably gasp in horror that a man in his early 30s is hitting on a 16-year-old, but, look, Natasha’s Mum said it was okay, so just chill out, okay?)

Seriously, though, it all feels right.  Or have I been watching too many romantic comedies with Rachel?

Either way, we’ll see you tomorrow.

3 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 6.16 – The First Dance

  1. Yes, it’s Natasha’s first dance (and Sonya’s too, I suppose).

    I have two film clips for this – one is the 2007 TV version and the other is from the 1956 Audrey Hepburn version . . .

    War and Peace – Audrey Hepburn – Natasha at Her First Ball – Dances With Andrei

    War and Peace – The Ball – The 2007 TV Series – French

    (Matt, these film clips pertain to this particular part of the story, so they aren’t spoilers)



    An aide-de-camp, the Master of Ceremonies, went up to Countess Bezukhova and asked her to dance.

    Firhoff – Baron Firhoff –

    . . . was talking to him about the first sitting of the Council of State to be held next day.

    (That’s the other person Andrei was talking to later on in the evening)

    Young Man at the Ball –

    A young man, looking distraught, pounced down on the ladies, asking them to move aside.

    – and –

    Naryshkina – Marya Antonovna Naryshkina –

    (So that’s who that is! Well, I can’t add her into the count – I already have her – see the sneaky way she tried to get counted again? 😉

    The host followed with Marya Antonovna Naryshkina; then came ambassadors, ministers, and various generals, whom Peronskaya diligently named.


  2. Ah, Matt … you have to keep going to romantic comedies with Rachel and, yes, we can tell already that this somehow feels right, despite their ages – which probably wasn’t all that odd in those days and, anyway, love comes in many forms, in many combinations. Tolstoy certainly presents this romance to us with his usual mastery of description – all that anxiety and apprehension on Natasha’s part. I know the first time I read War and Peace I was as anxious about her getting asked to dance as she was.

    But there were two lines that just stood out for me in this chapter – both, I thought, just masterpieces of imagery. I’ll quote both from Pevear/Volokhonsky:

    “…on Helene there was already a sort of varnish from all those thousands of gazes that had passed over her body … ”

    and then

    “… as soon as he put his arm around her slender, mobile, quivering waist, and she bagen to move so close to him an smile so close to him, the wine of her loveliness went to his head … ”

    Such wonderful contrasts – varnish for Helene, and wine for Natasha. Brilliant!!

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