I remember this particular chapter because the Russian Bondarchuk film (picking up on the throwaway sentence that these two conversations were occurring at the same time) had a split screen – in one third of the screen, Natasha and her mother had their bedtime conversation and in the other two thirds, Andrei and Pierre had theirs.

And, in astonishing real-time synchronicity (eat your heart out, Jack Bauer!), neither of them spoke over the top of the other!  The awkward pauses in one conversation became the talking moments for the other pair.

Anyway, back to the book, which instead puts the conversations one after the other, in a far less gimmicky manner.  The most interesting thing, to me, is the reaction of the confidants to the lovers’ confessions.

Natasha tells her mother that she is in love – but her mother’s reaction is one of fear.  Of what, we’re not sure.  Is it Andrei’s reputation as a sourpuss?  Is it her daughter’s age?  Is it just that she never thought of her being up and married this fast?  Not sure . . . but it’s an interesting reaction.

Meanwhile, Pierre too has an interesting reaction.  Enthusiastically smiling and saying, “Yeah, go for it!” (or words to that effect) to Andrei, while knowing that their happiness is helping to tip him into an even worse depression.  Even as his wife downstairs entertains some Prince who had become a regular visitor, he knows he will not enjoy that sort of happiness in his own life.

But then again – the role of the sad friend who never has things work out right – is a great one in classicl literature and not something we see so much of in recent years in stories.  I’ve just been recently rewatching the old BBC Charles Dickens serial of Martin Chuzzlewit.  There’s a character there called Tom Pinch.  He’s as ugly as can be, but has a heart of gold.  He’s in love with the main girl of the story – but he’s also friends with the man she loves.  So Tom helps them both, never revealing his true feelings – and remains a tragic character.

So unlike modern romance films, which seems to work out so well for all involved – these more Romantic (as in era) stories can often inject the love story with elements of sadness like this.

All good stuff for us readers, of course.  See you tomorrow.


5 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 6.22 – Two Conversations

  1. Yes, that scene in Bondarchuk was pretty extraordinary I thought – nd probably quite “out there” back in those days, especially in the USSR which was much less into the gimmicky that even then was so much a part of Hollywood cinema.

    I guess there are few places in the world where you find a bigger contrast than between a person who is happy in a new love, and one who is sad, without love. That’s exactly what I saw here between Pierre and Andrei – Andrei totally oblivious to anything but his own happiness (I just love that line, “the egoism of happiness”), and Pierre sinking deeper and deeper into his own gloom, far from unaware of what is bring such joy to Andrei.

    There are so many other great Tolstoyan observations here – the line about Pierre looking at his work, as if to escape his problems, in the way that unhappy people look at their work; the whole scene with Natasha and her mother, where Natasha reinvents history, convincing herself that she was in love with Andrei from the start, and that fate is bringing them together; and her mother’s reaction of fear – which, Matt, I saw as just being the typical mother’s reaction to what may be a life-changing moment in her daughter’s life. A momentous moment, in fact – or is that just a tautology?

    Anyway, the whole chapter is, I think, just a superb portrayal of the effects that new love has on the people it touches, the people it doesn’t touch, and the people around them.

  2. Well, Ian, I don’t know if this actually shows in the book here, but in the 2007 TV Series there’s a part where Natasha and Sonya are talking about Andrei – Natasha is telling Sonya that she’s just met ‘the man of her dreams’. Even though she knows he’s married (which he is at the time), she likes him.

    So she was attracted to him – but she can’t honestly say she’s always been in love with him. Guess it just ‘seems like’ she’s always been in love with him – you know how it is with love when it’s new – doesn’t matter how old you are, it always feels that way.

    The mother . . . The Countess Rostova Senior . . . yes, she’s glum about this. I seem to remember Tolstoy having mentioned that one of the mothers was ‘jealous’ of her daughter’s having suitors? Unfair, methinks . . . mothers tend to worry about their daughter’s happiness – that’s why she’d be a little off about this latest courtship.

    I think the mother is of the opinion that Natasha isn’t ready for marriage. At this point of the story, I didn’t think so either. She’s frightened about the way Natasha feels about Andrei. I think she knows how Natasha is like a poet – she falls in love once a week.
    Were these people in my real life, I’d have to say that this is partly the fault of the parents’ upbringing – you’ll remember Natasha, as a younger child, was inclined to jump all over everybody.

    The romance between N & A is wonderful, in itself, but I’m expressing my opinion as ‘how it was’ when I was at this chapter. Although I have (in further chapters) seen Natasha mature a bit (and her brother Nicolai, believe it or not), she still, at this point strikes me as being ‘frivolous’ in love.

    (I gotta’ keep my mouth shut about ‘further chapters’, of course)

    There are no new characters for me to record in this chapter.

  3. Ah yes, Carly – I know what you mean. The tendency to fall in love once a week is something that some of us never really fully grow out of – but when we stand on the threshold of our 50s, it does kind of stop being poetic!! At least Natasha has got some time to grow up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s