Reading for Friday, 27 February

This is one of those chapters where I feel like there’s a real story here. It wouldn’t surprise me if, in the history-books of the French invasion, the Russians tell stories of aristocrats who got into fights over whether they wanted to transport their belongings in wagons or human beings.

It’s interesting how Count Rostov immediatley chooses the human option – not necessarily because he’s a great humanitarian (though he is a caring person) – but more because he can’t say no.

Though, oddly enough, he can say now to Countess Rostova, who is upset over the whole thing.

It’s an interesting question, though.  If you were escaping from the Victorian bushfires and you can either give your stranded neighbour a lift, but leave behind all your photo albums and precious possessions – what would you do? Give your neighbour a lift or hope he can find some other way out?


2 thoughts on “One Year War and Peace 11.15 – Scarce Wagons

  1. It sure is a tense and telling story being told in this chapter where, in the midst of such massive suffering and tragedy, the more intimate and personal conflicts of the Rostov family still play out. The Countess is so terribly anguished – everything has been slowly falling apart around her, whether it be through the war or through her husband’s financial carelessness, or through her children’s headstrong decisions. And it’s that anguish, conflicted and conflicting with the Count’s eternal optimism and good nature, that comes to fore here against the backdrop of thousands of wounded and dying soldiers. It reminds of a remark Tolstoy made much earlier in the book – that, while all the political machinations of Napoleon and Alexander were being played out, the normal lives of the people of Russia, just kept on going. I think we see the same thing here, in a different sense and on a different scale, but still people’s inner lives and needs plodding along as they always do – their lines might have changed, but the parts they are playing haven’t.

    But you certainly draw attention to a very important question, Matt – how would we react in this situation? Certainly, as you point out, the bushfires here in Victoria have made that a very real question for a lot of people. I think the incredible thing about tragedies of this scale is that they show how strong the bond between humans really can be, despite all the ugly things that happen in the world. It seems that the roads out of the fire-ravaged towns of Victoria were crowded with cars that were packed not with people’s belongings, but with their neighbours. I’m sure there were many Countess Rostovas in those burning houses, desperately wanting to cling onto their material memories and their material futures – but then, when confronted with the real need of another human being, all the rest pales into insignificance. It’s just sad that we have to experiences fires and wars to learn that lesson.

  2. I guess we’d like to think we’d choose humans over our personal possessions. We don’t really know how we’re going to react until it happens.
    I think if the human suffering were sitting there right in front of our noses, as it is with the Rostovs, we’d choose to transport them, rather than selfishly leave them behind for the sake of taking our material items.
    Count Rostov is doing just what I thought he’d do – slacking off, procrastinating, but he’s true to form when he doesn’t hesitate to agree with Natasha that they should take the wounded.

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