Reading for Tuesday, June 9

Now we’ve actually jumped quite a few years forward here, because Nikolai and Marya now have two kids. Who are named, bizarrely enough, Natasha and Andrei. (Though the translation refers to little Andrei as Andryusha, which is a bit like a Russian nickname for Andrei, so you may not have realised straight away what his proper name was.)

This is on top of Andrei’s surviving son, who was also called Nikolai. Maybe it’s just Tolstoy’s way of showing how history repeats itself?

I don’t know.

I tell you what I do know, and that is that Nikolai is quite a sook, and I really was feeling sorry for Marya in this chapter.

But then again – hasn’t he always been? Do we expect him to change? Not really . . .

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3 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace E1.9 – A Rostov Domestic

  1. I doin’t think there’s necessarily too much of a synergy with the names here … I presume that little Nikolai, Andrei’s son, was named after Andrei’s father, and now Nikolai Rostov’s son is, indeed, named after Andrei … so it’s not so muchhistory repeating itself, perhaps, as people (or maybe just Tolstoy) sticking to the names and people they know.

    But, whatever we make of the names, I, like you, Matt, feel a little sorry for Marya in this chapter – and yet, once again, the scene we see described here is just so familiar, I imagine, to any family – the gentle and yet slightly uneasy interplay between people’s daily moods. But, even more than that, the thing that struck me most in this chapter was Nikolai’s thoughts and words on his life with Marya – a life that is not so much based on love for each other but on belonging together. I found that rather unsettling in some ways and yet it, too, feels familiar and recognisable – families held together because they simply could not think to be otherwise. Is that a good thing? My instinct tells me “no”, and yet, through Marya, and her strange mix of happiness and sadness in the last paragraph, we are shown that it just isn’t a yes or no question.

  2. I think it is a bit of both. In the 1800s, certainly, there was a sense in which you stuck to marriage out of duty. But also it could be driven by love as well.

    If it was driven just by feelings (which could well fluctuate up and down), there’d be broken families and marriages all over the place. If it was driven just by duty, there’d be some pretty miserable people.

    I’ve always found (at least with my own marriage), that there are times when you don’t always *feel* that close, but you still treat each other with love and respect. But at the same time, if it doesn’t feel good – you stop and work out why, because there’s probably something that needs to be discussed.

  3. I wasn’t surprised at Nikolai’s behaviour; I didn’t like him much from the beginning. I was, however, glad to see he agreed to change his ways when Marya put her foot down about his brutality with the servants.

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