Reading for Thursday, 19 March
We return again to St Petersburg, where not a lot has changed. In fact, it’s almost bizarre – Moscow as we know it has been completely turned on its head, but here is St Petersburg, still with Mme Scherer and her shallow dinner parties, and Prince Vassily and his hypocrisy.
However, in what is perhaps one of the most stunning pieces of poetic justice in the book, Helene is out of the picture, dealing with an inconvenience caused by her having two lovers (that’s not counting her husband).
Tolstoy chooses his words carefully (or at least Constance Garnett does), but it’s quite clear that she’s trying to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy . . . Despite that, everyone talks as if she is ill.
Pierre may be in prison, but he was in one anyway, if he’d stayed in these aristocratic circles . . .
Despite all this, Tolstoy still manages to have a bit of fun at Vassily’s expense by talking about his elocution – famous because it’s all about emphasising certain words, regardless of what the actual meaning of those words might be.