Really, the twist in this chapter is the kind that can only happen in a novel (and I’m not going to spoil it for you if you haven’t read it) – but it fits so well.

It immediately hearkens back to the back story of Andrei and Natasha, but also makes us realise that life is so much bigger than even the things that seem really traumatic at the time.

Andrei’s jilting pales against the new reality that he finds himself in, and this unexpected display of compassion and humanity is great to see in him.  But, sadly, as he himself realises it – this compassion has probably come too late . . .

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8 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 10.37 – A Novelistic Irony.3

  1. It really is quite a gruesome chapter, that’s for sure – and that surge of compassion towards the end seems all the more powerful because of its contrast to everything else. It’s another scene that I remember very well from Bondarchuk – right down to Andrei’s flashbacks to his childhood.

    Time and time again, when you read Tolstoy, you can’t help feeling, “Yes – that’s what it would be like” (or, at least I can’t) and even some of the most extreme experiences and feelings, such as this with scene all its gruesome horror followed by its soul-rending compassion, seem instantly recognisable.

    I know, Matt, that you do a lot of your daily reading quota on your way to work, so I guess that means that reading it out loud might be a tad difficult – but I must say that, since I have started doing that, I am appreciating the depth and richness of the writing even more.

  2. Actually, funny story about that scene in the Bondarchuk film. The actor who played Anatole originally wanted to play Andrei, which he didn’t get. He said he’d take the Anatole part if they’d film this chapter (Bondarchuk wasn’t originally going to film it).

    So, yeah, that scene almost never got made. Saved by an actor’s ego, really.

  3. What an interesting little anecdote, Matt – thanks for that. Is that on one of the extras with the DVD, or did you read it somewhere? I just love those little bits of trivia – which, actually, turn out not to be so trivial after all.

  4. Anatole’s also in this scene – that’s him whimpering in the background. Guess we’re supposed to feel sorry for him.

    But you know good ole cynical me – I’ve no sympathy with that piece of work.

    It’s Andrei that concerns me in this part . . .

  5. Carly, really, no sympathy at all for Anatole?

    Tolstoy wants you to, you know. I think that’s the point – we could all boo and hiss Anatole and really hate him for what he did to Natasha and Andrei – but when we see what happens to him, we’re meant to feel a bit sorry for him. After all, he is still a human being like us, and what happens to him is not something that we should really want to wish on anyone. Anyway, I’ll leave you to ponder that one . . .

    Ian, yes, if you get the five-disc Russia Cinema Council (Ruscico) DVD set of Bondarchuk (which is great, because you can see it all in widescreen, and it has surround sound and all that kind of stuff), it has a disc of extras. You can start to see the cracks in the Russian economy when you see these extras, because in America, your extras would be heavily edited, they’d get a number of different people involved in the making of the film, and it would be a short, snappy, engaging affair.

    Instead, the interviewees just sit and talk, unedited. So in the case of the composer of the film soundtrack, it was something like 15 minutes before he actually got to talking about the film.

    Anyway, as far as actors go, I believe the only one they managed to get hold of was the fellow who played Anatole, and that’s where I heard this story.

  6. Needless to say, I have to throw in my two bobs’ worth on the issue of Anatole. I guess if Andrei is able to feel compassion for him, then I reckon we can. I think one of the great things about Tolstoy’s writing is his capacity to give everyone some humanity – something that gives them value as a human being and here, I think, it’s done very cleverly because the compassion we feel for Anatole comes to us via the very person on whose behalf we had initially felt such disdain. The intense, pitiful suffering we see here – a man having his leg amputated without anaesthetic – to me, at least, is so overwhelingly awful that it outweighs all else and I cannot help but think that no human being should have to endure that kind of pointless suffering. But it’s Andrei’s compassion that turns the horror of this scene into one of shared humanity – which I think is just brilliant.

    And, Matt, the 5 DVD Ruscico version is the one I have too – I just have not yet managed to plough through all the extras, but really must.

  7. Why didn’t Andrei throw himself flat when the shell was about to explode? Are we supposed to admire his pride or think he’s really a prize w—-r? The latter, I suspect. Oh, the futility of it all.
    What we have in the scene where Andrei feels pity for Anatole is obviously an endorphin rush, but none the less valid for that.
    I saw the extras on the Bondarchuk DVD too, and isn’t it incredible to think they might NOT have filmed that scene if the actor hadn’t insisted? it’s only one of the most crucial scenes of the whole book!!!

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