Hello everybody! Today’s my first official day of Christmas Break. Yaaaay. And I promise I’ll do a Christmas post soon. I’m no Scrooge. Just a lazy yet busy little person.
Anyway, back to today’s post.
Some of you may know that I have an odd infatuation with Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I read it about a year ago, with mixed expectations, and absolutely fell in love with it. In fact, I love it even more than Pride and Prejudice. (*cowers from the copies of war and peace being thrown my way*)
I always get a wry look of disbelief when I tell people it’s worth the 1224 pages.
But it is. It most definitely is.
Why You Should Read War and Peace:
- The Characters – The characters of Tolstoy’s magnum opus, are incredibly human. More human than any I’ve read before. With the exception of a few, I can relate to all of them in some way, shape, or form. Natasha’s naive belief she’s in love every time she has an inkling of feeling for someone. Pierre’s constant feeling that he isn’t enough, that nothing is ever enough. Andrei’s tendency to become cynical in his search for meaning and joy. Nikolai’s lack of self control and cowardice. They’re all such beautiful souls. Well, most of them at least. (*remembers Helene and Anatole and shudders*) Ultimately what makes them most relatable is their search for truth and purpose. They stumble quite a bit along the way, but that makes the end of their journeys all the more meaningful.
- The Prose – Tolstoy’s prose, if you get a translation that remains faithful to his style, is so poignant. (I recommend the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation.) It’s been said that “if life could write, it would write like Tolstoy did.” There are moments that are dryer than others, i.e. the historical sections. But Tolstoy remains faithful to his message in his prose all through his 1224 pages.
Here’s one of my favorite descriptions:
Natasha’s dancing was excellent. Her little feet in satin ball slippers did their work quickly, lightly, and independently of herself, and her face shone with the rapture of happiness. Her bared neck and arms were thin and unattractive compared to Helene’s shoulders. Her shoulder’s were thin, her bosom undefined, her arms slender; but on Helene there was already a sort of varnish from all the thousands of gazes that had passed over her body, while Natasha looked like a young girl who was bared for the first time and would have been very ashamed of it, had she not been assured that it had necessarily to be so.
Here’s another (shorterish) example:
Over the whole field, once so gaily beautiful, with its gleaming bayonets and puffs of smoke in the morning sun, there now hung the murk of dampness and smoke and strangely acidic smell of saltpeter and blood. Small clouds gathered and rain began to sprinkle on the dead, the wounded, the frightened, and on the exhausted, and on the doubtful men. It was as if it were saying: ‘Enough, enough, men. Stop now… Come to your senses. What are you doing?’
- The Message – Tolstoy speaks very clearly to life, most especially through his characters and their struggles and triumphs. But ultimately Tolstoy conveys the beauty of life through his message. He desires his readers to understand that life isn’t just about grand moments, that life is the little moments. He wants us to see he grand in the ordinary and the ordinary in the grand.
- The Emotions – Natasha’s joy at her first ball; the rush, tumult, glory, and confusion of the battle field; compassion stirring Pierre’s heart; the excitement and distinct Russian feel of the night time troika ride Nikolai, Natasha, and Sonya take through the snowy woods; jealously, rage, loss, confusion; Sonya’s sweet, self-sacrificing nature; Marya’s loneliness; triumph, joy, peace, understanding; Pierre’s confusion and despair; Nikolai’s over confidence; the beauty of a moonlit night; the tender realizations of true love…
- The Length – Honestly, I don’t see the length as a negative aspect of the book. It couldn’t have been any shorter, not for what Tolstoy was trying to convey. The length not only conveys his message all the more, but it also allows the reader more time with the characters. After finishing it, I felt I had lost some good friends.
- The Scope – This somewhat goes along with the length, as without the length you couldn’t have the sheer breadth of War and Peace. Tolstoy takes us to battlefields, drawing rooms, soirees, ball rooms, political meetings, theaters, cathedrals, all through snow and sun, war and peace.
- It’s Effect – I don’t know how to explain it, but the beauty and pathos of this book speaks to me more than any other book I’ve read. It’s vulnerability and poignancy are staggering. It’s one of those books that reaches down inside of you and never leaves you.
There’s about a million more things I could say, but rather than keep you reading my words, I encourage you to read War and Peace. It’s an absolutely breathtaking book that reveals so much about human nature and life, and asks deep soul searching questions. If you don’t read anything else I ever recommend, read War and Peace.
(All the gifs are from the 2016 Masterpiece version of War and Peace. While it didn’t capture everything from the book, I think this version captured it’s essence very well. And, of course, its very aesthetic.)
(Also I apologize for the weird formatting. *glares at new wordpress editor*)