Reading for Monday, June 15
Now this is a strange sensation – this is the very last chapter in which we shall read about Nikolai and Marya. Which actually means that yesterday’s chapter was the last with Denisov, now that I think about it …
But this is it. After this chapter, we don’t come back to them.
So I guess what makes it so interesting is that there’s nothing to really indicate that Tolstoy is about to stop the book. Marya shows her child-rearing diary to Nikolai, he talks about how he was treating Nikolai Bolkonsky a bit badly (and apologises for it), and it ends with them both the same – Marya spiritual and transcended, Nikolai not really getting his wife, but loving her just the same – his interests in much more of the real world.
It was kind of nice that Nikolai is shown in slightly a better light than yesterday – but even then, it doesn’t feel like a final chapter for them.
Which is exactly what it should feel like. For Tolstoy’s view of history, there is no magical beginning or ending moment when you can say an event really happened. There is just the flow of history.
So we began by being dropped into Anna Scherer’s party. We didn’t know anyone, and as readers, we had to put a fair bit of work in for a couple of books just to keep up. (It’s like moving to a new job or a new church and trying to learn everyone’s name.)
But we did – or else we dropped out of reading a long time ago – and we started to catch up with a history that was well and truly flowing before we joined in. And now we suddenly are lifted out of it by the end of the book – but we know that it’s going to keep on going without us.
That is War and Peace. That is life.
Tomorrow, final chapter of narrative, and our farewell to Pierre and Natasha. If you’ve gotten really attached, you might need to bring tissues.