Reading for Wednesday, 21 January

And here we find ourselves back in the increasingly more crazy world of Moscow.  It’s odd how Tolstoy’s rather humorous descriptions of Moscovites ignoring the impending invasion actually makes the threat feel that more real.  It’s like disaster movies when you’re waiting for the disaster.  You know it’s coming, but it’s just a matter of when.

And so then we find ourselves in this little soirée with Julie Drubetskoya (Boris’ wife, if you can remember those details – and former penpal of Marya Bolkonsky).  I’m sure we’re all wishing we had Ian’s Pevear/Volkhonsky translation now, because it is here, as the aristocrats actually have a forfeit payable for anyone who speaks in French, that we really start to realise how useful it would be to know what proportion of the book was written in French and what in Russian.  But we get the idea, anyway.

What I liked most about this chapter is that Pierre is growing in stature in the story.  As Julie tries to bait him by mentioning Natasha, we see that sense of honour and chivalry that Pierre has, rising to the surface.  Pierre is still a bit confused and trying to find himself – but I don’t feel that he is naive any more.  He’s not at the mercy of the world around him.

More of that in the next chapter.

2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 10.17 – Gossip

  1. Yes, it’s true – Pevear/Volokhonsky is a great asset in chapters like this, with all the subtle interplay between the French and the Russian languages laid out exactly as Tolstoy wrote it. But you’re right, too, Matt, in that you get the general idea no matter what translation you’re reading. In some ways I found this chapter a great bit of light relief – but it was also a pretty disturbing chapter, too, in the way that it showed just how removed the Moscow aristocracy are from the reality of what is happening at their doorstep. It seems that for them the war is little more than a firvolous topic to discuss over canapes at a soiree, and even the fees for speaking French seem more of a game than anything else. Still, disturbing as all this is, it’s a great chapter and really quite funny. I love the final line – “How do you say it in Russian?”

  2. Actually, I do not wish I had any translation, other than the one I have – the ‘Maude’ . . . I get into enough trouble in English.


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