"When loving with human love one may pass from love to hatred, but divine love cannot change. No, neither death nor anything else can destroy it. It is the very essence of the soul. Yet how many people have I hated in my life? And of them all, I loved and hated none as I did her." And he vividly pictured to himself Natasha, not as he had done in the past with nothing but her charms which gave him delight, but for the first time picturing to himself her soul. And he understood her feelings, her sufferings, shame, and remorse.I never would have thought at the beginning that Prince Andrei would end up my favorite character. More on that shortly.
Historical fiction is not a likely favorite of mine, either—not because I don't like history, but because I don't like seeing modern-day thought patterns and agendas imposed, anachronistically and irritatingly, on the people of yore. I can spot an unlikely "Personal Relationship with Jesus" or "Equality Now!" from miles off. But while it's conceivable, I suppose, that Tolstoy imposed some 1860's Russian thought on the Russia of fifty years earlier, I'm not familiar enough with either to tell, so I was free of my usual hangup and could simply enjoy history and story alike.
|The Battle of Austerlitz|
by François Gérard
The difficulty with that last matter is that Tolstoy often got bored with his characters just when I was getting most interested. When he did go back to one, he frequently summed up the scenes I'd been looking forward to and launched the character into a new set of challenges, sometimes with a new personality to accompany them.
Which is how Prince Andrei—whom I disliked outright at the beginning—ended up as my favorite character, though he's arguably tied with Pierre, whom I loved from the book's front cover to its back. Both men kept a consistent, believable nature throughout the book, and both of them went through spiritual journeys that I understood and sympathized with, right through their final scenes. Tolstoy does nothing better than spiritual journey, and Pierre's and Prince Andrei's were responsible for many of the most beautiful passages in the story.
by Elizaveta Bern
Probably I'd make peace with most of that on a re-read, which will have to be accomplished with a print copy so I can skip around to the relevant sections. I'm not sure whether to blame my Kindle or my edition for losing pages every time I looked back through my bookmarks, but e-readers are really only good for single cover-to-cover reads anyway.
The story didn't lack for truth, beauty, goodness, or love, of course, even when it frustrated me. I got more out of the history than I thought I would—Tolstoy's perspective on Napoleon being far more interesting and comprehensible than Victor Hugo's—and I left several bookmarks in the philosophy at the end, despite moments of comparing Tolstoy to St. Augustine with amused disfavor toward both.*
I got a kick out of his referring to "the diffusion of printed matter" as "that most powerful engine of ignorance", however.** There's nothing like a little self-conscious writerly deprecation.
Minor frustrations and inconsistencies aside, Tolstoy's characters and their development—especially in spiritual things—are always a delight. I don't regret reading this book at all, despite the brutal scene I commented on last week. Hopefully none of you regret my reading it, though, seeing as how I'm now thoroughly enjoying that Tolstoy-provoked re-read of Twilight. :)
* I've been reading the Confessions for five years. Five years. And the reason for that is that the great saint spends an immense amount of time asking questions like: why does God mention the surface of the deep before mentioning the Spirit of God's movement across it?—and I tend to respond with, "Does. It. Matter?!" Tolstoy had his moments with that sort of thing. To be fair, those moments might've been fewer if I hadn't been so sleepy when I read it.
** And he hadn't even seen the internet! :P