Reading for Saturday, 10 January

And we return for a brief flash across to the ever-churning machine that is the salons of Anna Pavlovna Scherer – with a bit of competition from Helene.

Tolstoy, as always, is open to a bit of comedy, and here it’s provided by Prince Vassily, the man with no scruples at all, switching sides on the value of Kutuzov as a commander-in-chief.

There’s a certain level of Absolutely Fabulous bitchiness in the closing paragraphs where Vassily and Scherer smirk at the “man of great abilities”, who puts his foot in it by saying something directly, rather than dropping clever jokes in French about it.  No wonder Pierre and Andrei can’t stand these guys . . .

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One thought on “One-Year War and Peace 10.6 – Kutuzov?

  1. Great to see the return of 10.5 and 10.6 Matt!! And yes, you’re right – there is some great, if somewhat caustic, humour in this chapter with, I guess, Tolstoy thumbing his nose at all the shallowness and pretentiousness of the salon scene and, with it, the aristocracy.

    It actually reminds me of something you pointed out quite some time ago – that is, how, in reading War and Peace at this pace we notice so much more of the richness and brilliance of the book than we do when we read it more quickly. I do remember this chapter from my first read, and yet it’s really only now I can appreciate how apt it is at this point, sandwiched in the middle of so much else that is dark and tragic and horrific. In a way, I can now see that these pretentious worlds of Anna Sherer’s and Helene’s salons are just as terrifying as the battles being fought between the Russians and the French – terrifying in the sense that, while all this horror and devastation is happening around them, for these people it is as if the war itself is really there for no purpose other than their entertainment. But then are we all that different, the way we watch the world’s horrors on the nightly news, from the comfort of our loungerooms, with a glass of wine and a bowl of nuts at our side?

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