Reading for Friday, 3 April

And here we have the end of Andrei. This is officially his third “dying” moment in the whole book. The first time, he thought he was dead after his charge with the flag, right back at the battle of . . . hmm, it’s so long ago, even I have trouble remembering . . . the battle of Schöngraben, that’s right.

But he survived.

Then we had his next dying moment when he got blown up at Borodino.

But he survived that one as well (well, kind of – he’s here dying now because of the wound he got there).

But now at least, death really does come – which is quite a big thing, because unlike a lot of epic novels, not a lot of the main characters die in War and Peace.

I don’t want to really rave too much about the chapter – I think it speaks for itself fairly well. But I love the whole “dream sequence” (at least that’s the way Bondarchuk presented it), with the big door and It behind it.

But probably most brilliant of all is the crying scene in the last few paragraphs – where everyone comes to the coffin and cries over Andrei for various reasons of their own.

Interesting bit of trivia, this last section is one of those test cases for English translators of War and Peace. Depending which version you read, you’ll probably find the text uses a combination of “cried” and “wept” when talking about the different characters, so as not to become too repetitive.

However, the original Russian uses the same word “cried” every time. So Nikolushka cried. The countess and Sonya cried. The count cried. Natasha cried. Marya cried.

The repetition is actually on purpose to drive home the point that they’re all going through the same grief, but in very different ways.

And that brings us to the end of Book 12. Ladies and gentlemen, we are on the home stretch, with only 1/4 more of the book to go.

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2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 12.16 – Departure

  1. I know I’m not the frst to comment on this – but in this chapter you really do get a sense of what it must be like to die – something you alluded to yourself, Matt, in your blog for the previous chapter. I thought this scene was wonderfully portrayed in Bondarchuk and yet, even there, not a patch on how it is written here – capturing, as it does, the real inner essence of the journey Andrei is taking, and its almost incongruous, and yet totally recognisable, mix of fear and universal love. And yet Tolstoy then throws in another little irony – that profound experience of dying is in fact not his actual death … it was, if you like, his “near death” experience of a couple of days before. And then the actual end could not be described in a more understated way: “His last days and hours passed ordinarily and simply”. It’s as if Andrei had made his peace with death over the last few days and so now there was simply nothing left to do but to die.

    Like you, Matt, I loved the final paragraphs – and I just can’t, for the life of me, understand why a translator would want to change the way Tolstoy describes this scene. By using the same word (“plakal” in Russian) over and over again, Tolstoy not only shows that everyone is doing the same thing for different reasons, but he gives it all a poetry, a music, that is really lost if you start jumbling up the words. Pevear/Volokhonsky, needless to say, use “wept” all the way through.

  2. I, of course, had a good bubble!

    Poor Andrei – and I was starting to like him so much.

    (Ever since I saw the clips from the 2007 TV Movie, that is!)

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