Reading for Sunday, 1 March

There’s something about the way people’s paths cross in epics that’s always kind of fun.  A bit like Zhivago meeting Lara in the David Lean movie – it’s been something like 45 minutes (if not longer) of screen time since they’ve been together, so it feels like ages.

Same with Andrei and Natasha – they’ve been in separate chapters for books and books – and now here they are.  He’s wounded in a carriage, and she’s just a little bit further down the street in another carriage – but she has no idea.

So close – will this be a reconciliation? Will there be peace? Will he die and she’ll never get a chance to say anything? This is Tolstoy, so it could be anything, couldn’t it? (Either that, or it’s all been revealed in the last week that I haven’t been blogging, in which case I’m blathering on about nothing. . .)

My only other thought, was a completely random one which was that Tolstoy went into such detail about which streets the carriages drove through, that I was wondering if someone pulled out an old map of Moscow streets back in 1812, whether they’d be able to pinpoint the location of the Rostov mansion . . . any Tolstoy scholars out there want to answer on that one?

In the meantime, we find Pierre again, but we’ll have to wait till the next chapter to find out how that all pans out.


2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 11.17 – Meetings in Epics

  1. Well, Matt, I have no idea whether or not it’d be possible to locate the Rostov’s house on an 1812 map of Moscow, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it was. The descriptions are certainly extremely detailed – and I know, at least, that Tolstoy spent a lot of time getting to know the field of Borodino before writing those chapters, so you’d expect he would have had at least as much familiarity with Moscow.

    And, yes, the chance crossings of paths in this chapter are pretty powerful – both with Andrei and then with Pierre: two relationships with Natasha which, in their own very different ways, ended so unhappily. And yet now, in the midst of this war-torn scene, with wounded bodies everywhere, and a city in its final hours of abandonment, we can’t help but get some little sense of hope for the future – or at least that’s what the impact on me was: as if, even with Andrei dying and Pierre confused and disoriented, there is something about those strong bonds of the past which, amongst all this death and destruction, seem to somehow to be likely to endure.

    So, just as in the last chapter I felt Tolstoy was giving us a hint of scorn towards all the sympathy and care for the wounded, in this chapter I felt he was giving us a hint of hope amongst all the hopelessness.

  2. He probably had a map – then again, I imagine he knew the streets of Moscow pretty well.
    Anybody who has looked at clips of movies – the Russian, the 2007 TV movie, would know all this biz with Andrei in one carriage and Natasha in the other, unaware of each other’s presence, is leading up to something big time.
    A writer like Tolstoy doesn’t put a gun on the mantelpiece unless it’s going to be fired.

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