You may be distracted by other things in this chapter, but this is actually a very funny description of an opera by Tolstoy.  Especially back in the days before surtitles, where for the most part, you had a vague idea of the plot and were just supposed to sit back and enjoy the singing.

But let’s face it – we’re not really noticing the opera.  In fact, one can only wonder if things would have gone differently in this chapter if the opera had been interesting and everyone had been riveted on the action.


What on earth is this?!?!?

Like a train wreck in slow motion, the most disastrous thing imaginable (who cares about Napoleon invading?) starts to unfold.

Andrei, finally happy after years of miserableness (many chapters and months for us), finds the girl of his dreams, has to wait a year – and then THIS HAPPENS!

While it’s lost some of its shock value, I can still remember that feeling of, “Oh no! . . .” the first time I ever read it.

Everything just has an air of seediness about it.  The low-cut dress of Helene’s, the way Anatole makes eyes at Natasha . . . Dolokhov sitting back and watching it all.  It’s all the lowlifes of the Russian aristocracy, all having fun at a boring opera, and Natasha is about to step into the middle of it . . .

See you tomorrow, without a doubt.

2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 8.9 – An Opera That Was Way Too Boring

  1. Yes, it really is very cleverly done, isn’ it? I guess we’re getting an account of the opera through Natasha’s eyes – really no idea what’s going on and even less interest. I couldn’t help wndering hen I first read this, and again now as I read it again, just what the opera actually is. Knowing Tolstoy, I bet it’s a description of a real opera that he saw and I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if it was actually something that was quite popular in his time, and this was his kind of light-hearted way of poking fun at it all. But then I would have expected Pevear/Volokhonsky to have had a footnote on that, so maybe not.

    But the whole thing with Natasha and Anatole and Helene is exactly as you describe it, Matt: seedy. But then everything has been leading to this, with Natasha becoming more and more restless over the past few chapters – it had to resolve itself somehow, and I just couldn’t imagine Tolstoy doing that with the sudden rapturous arrival of Prince Andrei on a white charger with a halo of a golden sunrise around him!!

    Of course, I continue to be absolutely incensed at how everyone is behaving at the opera – no matter how boring it is!!

  2. I just can’t get over how naïve these young girls are – surely somebody must have told her about Anatole . . . do the Rustovs not hear about these things that go on? Of course they do . . . and Marya D? Although you’re going to be taking credit for saving the day a few pages down the road – DO YOU NOT HAVE EYES IN YOUR HEAD?

    Natasha and Anatole! If anybody wanted to lose weight, just read these segments – it’ll make ya’ throw up.

    Nicely done, Matt . . . the perfect way to describe this – a train wreck in slow motion, indeed!

    I don’t think there are any new characters in this segment.

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