Another little vignette of Karataev’s tale. I had an interesting footnote in my edition which said that Tolstoy later expanded this tale out as a short story in a collection called Twenty-Three Tales and towards the end of his life, considered it one of the two best things he ever wrote. They didn’t say what the first one was.

Anyway, it certainly does have a haunting quality to it – even more so because of the atmosphere that is set up by the description of the rain and the campfires.

Pierre is still struggling with his pity towards Karataev. I still think he wants to walk away and ignore it, but he is fascinated by the tale.

I’m not sure whether there’s a great profound point to the tale, but it’s fascinating to watch Pierre’s joy stir as he listens to it.


One thought on “One-Year War and Peace 14.13 – Karataev’s Tale

  1. As I read this chapter, I think you are right, and I was wrong, Matt, in relation to Pierre and his reactions to Karataev’s sickness and approaching death. It’s pretty clear here that he is drawn back to Karataev in spite of himself – wanting to turn away, but unable to.

    I think the point of Karataev’s story, though, is as much about Karataev’s telling of it as it is about the tale itself – and it’s the coming together of those two things that makes this a piece of writing of which Tolstoy was justifiably so fond. I think it is just a simple, poignant tale, which in a way mirrors much that is the essence of Karataev and, ultimately, of what Pierre (and Tolstoy) believe life to be about – a life that ultimately finds a kind of balance, even with its sadness and loss and injustices. The old man in the story dies before he is pardoned, and yet, despite his death, there is a degree of resolution, through the remorse of the real murderer. It doesn’t change the fact that the old man suffered wrongly and unjustly for years, and died tragically before he could freed, but the story seems to tell us that life’s balance is found in something beyond the what individual’s experience. That seems so much what Karataev was about and, indeed, what the whole of War and Peace is about, too – the trees can never really be properly understood other than in the context of the forest of which they are a part.

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