Reading for Tuesday 4/11/08

Sorry, folks, last week was exceptionally busy the whole week, and then there was an awful lot on this weekend as well.

Anyway, better late than never . . .

This chapter serves two purposes.  First of all, we find out that Marya has been copping quite nasty treatment from her father – not that there’s anything new in that.

Then we launch into another of her letters to Julie Karagina.  In this letter, she puts forward her belief that God causes everything that happens (whether it seems bad or good to us) for a good reason.  I don’t have time to explore this one more in-depth, but it has been of the most hot topics in atheist vs Christian discussions for many years.

The debate goes something like this – atheists say that there clearly can’t be an all-loving God because if He was all-loving and all-powerful, He (or She) wouldn’t let bad stuff happen to people who don’t deserve it.  Because bad stuff doesn’t happen, He’s either not all-loving or He’s not all-powerful.  Either way, He mustn’t exists.

The problem is it’s too simplistic to say, “God’s in control.  Don’t worry about what just happened.  It’ll all work out for the best” but that has been the message that has been put across for a while.  Tolstoy gives us a fair-sized slab of that in Marya’s letter.  I don’t know what Julie Karagina’s reaction would have been to this letter, but I suspect this kind of thing would have been like rubbing salt in her wounds.

But then again, Marya and Julie have been writing to each other for years, so maybe not.

It’s also rather amusing that Marya’s Dad is the lone voice of reason who isn’t siding with Napoleon under the new arrangement.  (Remember, you are supposed to read this chapter in light of the fact that we know Napoleon is going to invade Russia in 1812.)

Finally, a little bit of comedy as Marya expressly denies that there’s any chance that her brother would get engaged to Natasha Rostova.


4 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 6.25 – Another Letter to Julie

  1. Once again, welcome back Matt. Can’t you just tell your employer that you have much more important things to do than to be organising concerts, and that there are at least two Russian aristicratic families, not to mention the whole Russian empire, waiting on your attention???

    But, yes, the “why does God alow this” issue will always be a hotly debated one. As someone who has been a fervent believer as well as a fervent athiest and is now a fervent somewhere-in-betweener, I have personally never had trouble with the notion of an all-loving, all-good God allowing bad things to happen. Whether a person believes in God or not, as I see it, we have the capacity, the resources and the means on this planet to enable everyone to live good, comfortable lives. I don’t think we can blame a creator (if there is a creator) for the fact that we have failed to avail ourselves of the opportunity to make this planet a decent place for everyone to live on. So the question to me is not so much why does God allow bad things to happen, but rather wy do WE allow it? Even if there’s not a God, I think a lot of us (myself included) have a lot answer for!!

    Anyway – this chapter. Here are the thoughts I noted down the other day when I read it:

    I don’t know why I always like coming back to Bald Hills, and spending time again in the company of the eccentric, grumpy old Prince and his pious straight-laced daughter, but I do. I think I find them both such interesting characters – so odd together, and so oddly the father and sister of Andrei.

    Anyway, it’s interesting to read Marya’s thoughts here about Andrei and Natasha – something which, at this stage, she thinks is only a malicious rumour. I sense almost a hint of venom from Marya towards Natasha – unthinkable as such a thing seems from Marya towards anyone. I think there is perhaps something in Marya that longs for others, especially the people she loves, to share her sadness and suffering, which is why she sees such nobility and goodness in loss, and most particularly in Andrei’s loss of his first wife. To see him in love again, and happy, in a way shatters all of that for her – it shatters her ideas on why people suffer and, perhaps more to the point, it shatters the profound bond which Andrei’s loneliness has created for her with him. Or maybe I’m psychoanalysing her too much?

  2. I still find it odd, when I catch myself sympathizing with the Russian forces . . . didn’t we got through a period in the fifties when we were scared sheetless of what those guys were gonna’ do to us?

    ‘Course, maybe they weren’t going to do anything – maybe my dad was right – maybe they were just ‘rattling their sabers’ . . . same as the US was doing.


    Yeah, Marya’s dad . . . don’t care if the old fart does die – that’s somebody I’ll never sympathize with – silly old goat!


    Yes, we already know what Napoleon’s going to do, so I’m not giving a spoiler when I say ‘hang on readers! this gets worse!’

    I’m working my way through book 10 right now – hoo boy!


    I’m so glad you showed up here, Matt – I thought you might have quit!

    Don’t work so hard this week!

  3. Well, yes, Carly, we were a bit worried about the Russians in the 50s. But, look, there’s always two sides to every story. And to be able to read up and get inside the heads of Russians (where this book takes us) is a great thing.

  4. If you say so, Matt . . . I often wonder what they’ll get up to, even in these modern days.

    (And I worry about what others might get up to, of course . . . )


    My post – November 13th, 2k8

    I don’t know if there are going to be new people to add to my count of 576 . . . I’ll listen once more to Chapter # 25 . . .

    I can’t find anything.

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