Now we’re back into the world of Natasha and Marya. I love this description of grief by Tolstoy – not in a morbid sense because I like sad things – but because it captures the essence of the kind of questions you ask when you lose someone in a way that feels very real.

They might not be these particular questions or these particular thoughts – but they revolve around that cycle of emotions – sadness, anger, flatness. It’s all there.

The bit I like the best is where Natasha remembers Andrei saying that it would be awful to be stuck with an invalid the whole time. At the time, she agreed. But she qualifies that now – she agrees that it might be awful for Andrei – but for her, Natasha, she would much rather have an invalid dying Andrei around all the time, rather than to have no one at all.

Incredibly simple idea, profoundly moving. And, of course, all of this is shattered by still more devastating news about Petya that has finally arrived.

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2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 15.1 – Not So Awful For Me

  1. I, too, found this chapter to be an incredibly vivid, penetrating depiction of grief – perhaps, more than anything else, because of the “other worldliness” that is conveyed here. Both Marya and Natasha are living, in their grief, in a world that not only no one but they can inhabit, but also which no one but they can comprehend. Everything else jars.

    There’s a poignant irony in the way that these two women, who at first seemed to be such rivals, in different ways, for Andrei’s love, and to mistrust one another because of that, are now so united in their grief – a phenomenon which, I guess, is as real as grief itself.

    I found that whole imagined conversation that Natasha has with Andrei also incredibly moving and incredibly recognisable – the need to have the conversations that we wished we had had with people before we lost them.

    So once again we find that when Tolstoy describes something – a birth, a death, a battle, a hunt – we are left thinking, “yes – that’s exactly how it would be”.

  2. I never found Natasha and Marya to be rivals – the situation made them nervous about each other. Marya wasn’t sure what her father was going do, and she wasn’t sure what kind of place she’d have to stand once her brother married Natasha.

    Natasha was afraid of Marya; although she, as Andrei’s sister, wanted to love Natasha and looked forward to having her as a sister, Natasha was afraid of how the family was going to receive her.

    You have to figure – the old man put the kybosh on their engagement by demanding it wasn’t even announced till a year had passed – he didn’t want them to marry. So Natasha already had her back up when she met Natasha.

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