Reading for Thursday, 29 January
Sorry, I wrote the 10.24 post yesterday and I thought I’d posted it, but then I found it was just in drafts in the end. So I apologise for that.
Now, on to 10.25. I don’t know about you, but I found this chapter to be immensely powerful. At first, I thought it was a bit cheesy, because Andrei was giving us the same spiel as Tolstoy about how no general is going to command the battlefield. (I’ve never liked being preached to by characters in novels or movies.)
But as his conversation went on alone with Pierre, things took a different turn. At first, I was finding myself more and more horrified at how brutal Andrei was being, with his “no prisoners” policy for the French, not showing them any quarter, etc. But then, in the end, you realised, as he talked more and more about war, that what he was saying actually made a lot of sense.
The way I read it was this: we must treat war as horrible and not as “a polite recreation” or else we’ll just want to keep doing it. And I think that’s very true. I worry more and more that we trivialise war with all our movies and computer games, and then can’t comprehend exactly how destructive it is.
I’m not sure that I agree with Andrei that the person who is most determined will win the battle – but really, it’s not the kind of hypothesis I want to ever have to test, really.
Note also, that he finishes speaking in a shrill shriek. If you’re paying attention, you would realise that this is a common characteristic of Old Bolkonsky, and Tolstoy is actually giving us a glimpse in Andrei of how Old Bolkonsky became the way he was.
But then, most beautiful of all, Andrei falls asleep dreaming of a little moment with Natasha, which causes him more grief than his likely death in battle. It makes you wonder – did old Nikolai Bolkonsky (who we know was a widower) have a broken heart that drove him to his state of misery?