LRTT : War and Peace – Volume IV, Part 4

Let’s Read This Thing : War and Peace is my many-month’s long project to read the 1,200 page behemoth about Russia’s involvement in the Napoleonic Wars, and all the lords and ladies back home who are having crises in the midst of it. LRTT

And so it ends. Sort of. There is still about 85 pages worth of Epilogue. But the Volumes nad Parts and Chapters that follow the years between 1805 and 1812 are complete and in the bag.

The last few parts have served to whittle down the war and the world affected by it. Characters have died, Moscow has been abandoned by the French, and the Russians are returning to their lives again, lives that have been forever changed.

It is fitting that the story closes out with Pierre and Natasha. Though neither ever went to war, their experiences over the years changed them both in profound ways. While their friends and family symbolized the soldiers and the mindsets behind war and glory, Pierre and Natasha exemplified those left at home. One is a man seeking to find both himself and his own meaning of truth and morality in the midst of a new found fortune and a war that followed. The other is a girl who transforms from a child to a woman- an example of life and light in the shadow of conflict, but a person who is not immune to conflict of her own.

They’ve both gone through their own hells- as prisoners, as citizens forced to abandon their homes, as objects of scandal, as individuals who have lost loved ones left and right. I’ve seen people characterize War and Peace as a novel with two plots- one of the Napoleonic “Wars”, and one of the socialites and the “peace” back home. Only… there really is no “peace”in this story, not until the very end anyway. Even those who do not fight have been affected profoundly. All have experienced loss.

The Part ends on an uplifting note, though not one of ultimate resolution (the Epilogue is for that). It’s as if Tolstoy wants the readers to know that things will finally improve, but not too much, and not just yet.

The past four Volumes have been about history. They are about an event in time, the things that led to those events, and the impact they have on those who lived them. They are about the forces that drive men and women to do what they do and the millions of small actions that lead to change. Pierre now has not only an appreciation for his life, but also hope for the future. War is over, and the real peace, inner peace, can begin at last.

 

 

LRTT : War and Peace – Volume IV, Part 3

Let’s Read This Thing : War and Peace is the collected notes and thoughts that popped into my brain while reading through Tolstoy’s 1200 Page Masterpiece. Spoilers!

So we’re down to the final three posts on this long journey of love, loss, and life lessons in early 19th century Russia. Today’s rundown of Part 3 will be followed up by the final Part of Volume IV, and then I’m going to lump the two Epilogues together since the second bit is pretty short. LRTT

What will I ever do with my time once this is done? What absurdly long book will I pick up next for an LRTT project? (I’m thinking Cryptonomicon… thoughts out there anyone?)

More on that at a later date. Let’s get back to Russia. Volume IV has been the winding down of everything- of wars, of the existences of several characters, of periods of self-doubt, immaturity, and spiritual woe. Part 3 brings us back to a few characters that have been off page for a while, closing out their stories while also bringing Pierre’s saga closer to its final resolution.

Petya, Natasha and Nikolai’s babiest brother, left for war so many chapters ago, and here we see the result of his enlistment. He catches up with Denisov, the career soldier, and Dolokhov, the eternal scoundrel. The three are part of the splinter force that is attacking the retreating French as they run back to the safety of Western Europe. The use of these characters to describe the ongoing guerilla war is effective, bringing yet another personal connection to the events that really happened.

Petya, in this case, is fresh-faced and eager for battle. He is enamored of the spirit that fills the troops around him, and he is impressed at the savvy and swagger of Dolokhov. Once upon a time his older brother was in a similar position. He too fell under the charms of Dolokhov, becoming overconfident in the shadow of the rogue’s charisma. At least Nikolai escaped with his life. Petya’s overconfidence ends his tale.

Petya’s death is one of many in this book that highlight the horrors and needless deaths that come with war. Earlier in the Part a Russian spy casually executes a French captive. The French themselves kill their prisoners who can no longer march, including Karataev, who has moved Pierre profoundly. Finally, Petya, the young idealist soldier, is gone well before his time. Wars may sometimes be necessary, but Tolstoy doesn’t neglect to critically point to the evils that occur.

Pierre conveniently happens to be a prisoner of the French soldiers that the Russian guerillas attack. The battle brings an end to his captivity and at last he can return home. Once again he is a man changed by his experiences, a man who can finally appreciate the simple joys that his life has in it. He has experienced tragedy but was blessed to make it so far when so many others are now gone.

 

LRTT : War and Peace – Volume IV, Part 2

Let’s Read This Thing : War and Peace is the collected notes and thoughts that popped into my brain while reading through Tolstoy’s 1200 Page Masterpiece. Spoilers!

War and Peace is the story of a conflict- of the overt battles of the Russian campaign LRTTagainst Napoleon, and of the moral and social conflicts that take place back home. As the novel draws closer to a close it is logical that such conflicts be resolved.

In Part 1, bits of that resolution came through forgiveness, through sacrifice, and through death. In Part 2, we see more of the same, though with a more militaristic focus. Large portions of this segment deal with the real life characters of this war- Kutuzov and Napoleon first and foremost. These actual historical figures have had their thoughts fictionalized by Tolstoy numerous times throughout the text, giving glimpses of what these formidable men may have thought. In the case of Kutusov we see a patient man, a man who knows his strength is growing, but who knows that uncalculated actions could easily lead to a Russian defeat. He tries to do what he thinks is best, and through it backfires through chance, his army still makes it out and he is rewarded. Kutuzov cannot control his men to the degree he wishes, but his control is enough to keep them from full devastation.

Napoleon too seeks to control all of those around him- military and non. He is a man of ego, a man used to pattern and getting what he asks for. He tries to mollify the remaining Muscovites- offering them money for grains, reaching out to the churches and theaters. But nothing works. The Russians are unlike any other people he has invaded. Peace will not be achieved during this occupation, and winter is coming. Napoleon has to admit defeat. He has to swallow his pride and flee.

That march from Moscow also reacquaints us with Pierre who has spent a month in captivity. Though a prisoner, he is happy. Count Bezhukov, who has spent this entire book questioning his life and what life means, and is finally at some level of peace thanks to his interactions with Platon Karataev. He appreciates simplicity. He feels transcended from physical pain. Pierre knows that through all of this suffering his soul can never be harmed, and it transforms him. His moral conflicts are at an end as the military conflicts do likewise. The curtain is soon to close.

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The Last Wish

“Evil is evil, Stregobor,’ said the witcher seriously as he got up. ‘Lesser, greater, middling, it’s all the same. Proportions are negotiated, boundaries blurred. I’m not a pious hermit, I haven’t done only good in my life. But if I’m to choose between one evil and another, then I prefer not to choose at all.”

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LRTT : War and Peace – Volume IV, Part 1

Let’s Read This Thing : War and Peace is the collected notes and thoughts that popped into my brain while reading through Tolstoy’s Montserpiece. Spoilers!LRTT

The end is near. Literally near. Three Volumes down, one and an epilogue to go. Volume IV is short, it’s fast, its the beginning of the end, and I’m actually already finished with three of its four Parts as I write this. I got in a groove, alright?

A common complaint with War and Peace is that it has far too many named characters, and that’s a fair observation. Off the top of my head I can count at least 40, and that’s no where near the total count. (I wouldn’t be shocked if the actual number is ten times that.)

Now obviously not everyone can make it through this. It would just be absurdly unrealistic for every single one of the dozens/hundreds of named characters to make it to the end with a happily ever after. Most, I’m sure, will never have a revealed fate. Princes and counts and soldiers come and go in such rapid numbers that the destinies of most will elude us forever. But the rest? The Bolkonskys, Kuragins, Rostovs? Their dearest friends and most bitter rivals? It’s time to start whittling them down. (more…)