Reading for Sunday, 15 March

I have to say this was where the one (or two, in my case) chapters a day really paid off for War and Peace. Last time I read this, I was basically skim-reading and only really taking in the main plot points.

But I can’t tell you how exquisitely moving I found this chapter. It’s probably slightly different in every translation, but the last sentence in mine is “He smiled, and held out his hand to her.”

I think that’s the my vote for the most beautiful moment and the most beautiful sentence in all of War and Peace. It nearly made me weep and took me right out of my morning commute.

3 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 11.31 – Smiled And Held Out His Hand

  1. Well, in Pevear/Volokhonsky it is “He smiled and gave her his hand”. I had a look at the Russian and I probably would have translated it “He smiled and held out a hand to her”. But however it’s translated, you’re right, Matt – it’s a beautiful, simple, poignant line, after all that has gone before, not only for Andrei and Natasha but, also more immediately, in this very chapter with that constant reminder of the groaning adjutant throughout – an almost relentless sense of horror, rumbling in the background. But it’s a background that still admits its momentsof warmth and sunlight – as we see here, in Andrei’s smile and a hand held out to Natasha.

  2. Well, Andrei had a lot of time to think about this . . . how Natasha was, after all, only human – and during these last days of his life, he’s thinking a little more deeply.

    I’m not knocking Andrei . . . don’t get me wrong – I just love this guy now. Hard to believe I didn’t like the guy at first.

    Didn’t’ like Pierre either, but now, I wonder how I’m going to live without him when the book is finished.

    I wonder if Tolstoy thought about calling his book ‘We’re Only Human’.

  3. Wow, Carly, well if you’ve fallen in love with Andrei and Pierre, I think Tolstoy’s done his job.

    The trick is being able to take that out into the real world. When we meet people who are difficult, have different opinions and personalities from us, it can be easy to write them off.

    But, as Tolstoy so beautifully points out, and as you said – “We’re only human.”

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