Reading for Wednesday 5/11/08

And here we find Prince Bolkonsky threatening to marry Mademoiselle Bourienne.  I must admit, there are times when I wish the War and Peace world was as simplistic as, say, an American feel-good movie.  Rachel hired out the film Dan in Real Life, this weekend just gone, and we watched that.  I won’t say anything about the film (which is actually not too bad), but in the first half hour it set up some awkward family/relationships which you knew were going to be resolved by the end of the film.  Sure enough, by the end of the 98 minutes, everything’s good again.

But here, in the Tolstoy world, there’s no guarantee that old Bolkonksy is going to get any more empathetic as the story goes along.  He could well just die a grumpy old man.

Certainly, Marya needs to get out of there.  Her Dad’s threatening to marry Mademoiselle Bourienne. She’s now heading into a crazy fantasyland, where she dreams of hitting the road as a pilgrim and calmly dying under a tree somewhere . . .

This is probably the first end of a book so far in War and Peace where everything feels unresolved.  Onwards to Book 7 then!


4 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 6.26 – Marrying Bourienne

  1. I just love this sort of writing, just dripping with inner turmoil and angst – the sort of things that seems to be such a feature of Russian literature, and it’s something, of course, that Tolstoy does particularly well, especially all those unresolved, untied, loose ends that you mention, Matt.

    The angst appears in this chapter in Marya’s feeling of alienation from the world, her longing for the simple, impoverished life of a holy wanderer, and yet she is torn in two by her bonds to the people who make up her world of here and now. It’s a chapter full of these internal contradictions for Marya, who on the one hand inwardly chides Andrei for needing another wife and yet sees in herself a need for the same human connection in her own longing to stay with her father and nephew. I think this Chapter gives us tremendous insight into who Marya is, and why, even immersed in her religion and beliefs as she is, she is still so sad and out of place in the two worlds she tries to straddle – the spiritual and the tangible. I gather Tolstoy himself struggled with those contradictions and tensions in his own life, and his understanding of what it means come across so strongly, and so eloquently, in this Chapter.

  2. I thought Marya really would ‘hit the road’ and become a nineteenth century hippie.

    Or she would have moved in with her ‘God Folk’ which would have been just her thing.

    I guess I was kind of ‘with her’ on that one – when I was in my late teens and early twenties (before I got married the first time), I had a fantasy about putting a pack on my back and walking across the country.

    If I were on my own at this stage of my life (officially becoming a senior in December), I’d be inclined to buy an electric bicycle and start wandering around . . . this is a laugh, because I can’t even walk a few blocks – my legs just aren’t good.


    Can you just imagine that old goat marrying Mme B? Geesh!

  3. It’s funny Carly, I’m the opposite to you – the older I get, the more I just want to stay put. I somehow suspect that by time I really do get to retirement age my ideal life will be just one long, long, long sleep-in!!

  4. I think that depends on how much you did do when you were young – had I done these things, taken a little freedom, maybe I wouldn’t have felt so restless as I got older (and I did).

    Any people to add?

    Theodosia –

    There was one pilgrim, a quiet pockmarked little woman of fifty called Theodosia, who for over thirty years had gone about barefoot and worn heavy chains.


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