Thoughts on: War & Peace: Book 3 Part 1

September 29, 2012

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy is a fictional book first published in 1869. The work is regarded as one of the most important works of world literature. The copy I read was translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude.

  • 1350 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; New edition
  • ISBN: 0199232768

Thoughts on: War & Peace: Book 3 Part 1

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More books by Leo Tolstoy

In this part of War and Peace where the war starts to affect those who are in the home front. While Napoleon invades Russia the rich folks can no longer continue with their way of life.

The novel starts off with a section in which Tolstoy writes his thoughts about the nature of historic action. At first this annoyed me (as I continued reading I discovered that this was not unique to this section) because it seems to bring the story to a grinding halt. At firs this type of meditations annoyed me, but the more I read the more I realized that Tolstoy was keeping to the theme of War & Peace, the human condition. Only instead of pontificating on the subject of human condition while telling the story of a bunch of disgusting and somewhat less disgusting people, Tolstoy turns the table on the readers and discusses the subject on a much bigger scale.

Tolstoy argues that events are caused by an infinite number of small factors instead of one major factor (ex: the Tsar willed that…) which historians seemed to ascribe to that event.

The scenes where the French march into Russia are fantastic. Somehow Tolstoy manages to capture the grandeur of thousands of men marching while concentrating on Napoleon admiring his own army. Much like the feeling I got that Tolstoy doesn’t really care for Russian high society, I got the feeling that the author has little respect for the Emperor.

Military genius or not.

Tolstoy seems to believe that Napoleon rode the waves of history while imagining that he was actually controlling the tide. The author portrays the Emperor as a brutish man with no manners and a huge ego.

In what seems to be a clear 20/20 backwards vision, but geniusly written as a prophetic section, Tolstoy employs the Muscovites crowds at the Tsar’s speech (the last two chapters) to show disorder mashed with patriotism – the war has come.

Napoleon invades Russia!

The Tsar hears of it when he is Vilna. Boris is also in Vilna and noticed that something big has happened. The Tsar sends Balashev to find Napoleon and demand that he will remove the French troops fro Russian soil.

Napoleon takes the admiration of his troops in stride and even a bit irritated by it because he is trying to contemplate the mission ahead.

Meanwhile Balashev meets with two of Napoleon’s generals, Murat and Davoust. Murat is a vain man while Davoust is a brute. In a complete circular journey, Balashev finally meets Napoleon in Vilna, in the same palace where he started his journey and gotten his orders from the Tsar. However, Balashev doesn’t get to deliver his message. Napoleon keeps on talking about everything that enters his mind, he even invites Balashev to dine with him completely oblivious that he has acted improperly. After all, Napoleon is the Emperor and if he acted a certain way it simply means that it was the correct way to act.

In Bald Hills things aren’t good. The Old Prince is getting more and more senile while tormenting Maria, his daughter. Andrei has joined the Russian army, he is depressed after the whole episode with Natasha and is intent on looking for Anatole, challenging him for a duel and killing him.

When Andrei tries to talk to his senile father about military strategy, the Old Prince is only interested in his daughter whom he torments. When Andrei sides with his sister, the Old Prince gets mad and parts with Andrei on bad terms.

The first time for both.

Before he leaves, Andrei talks to Maria about Mademoiselle Bourienne who is enjoying the Old Prince’s courting, senile or not. Andrei bursts out against Bourienne but Maria knows what’s under his anger. Maria asks Andrei not to seek out Anatole and he promises not to, but he is lying. Andrei reaches Army headquarters and instead of staying there he is asked to be commissioned to the front.

Nikolai is still with the hussars when he hears that his sister’s engagement has been broken off. Nikolai is no longer afraid of fighting because he no longer thinks about it. He charges and captures French soldiers and is decorated for doing so. However, Nikolai still remembers how frightened the French soldiers were and does not consider himself a hero.

Natasha has been healing nicely, but only physically – emotionally she has a way to go and is still depressed. In church, Natasha prays devoutly as everyone else even though it seems ironic to her to pray for her enemies and for the French to be defeated. The irony is only a momentary thought though.

Pierre visits the Rostovs, he visits often and has fallen in love with Natasha who welcomes his visits.Pierre’s life is boring and meaningless, other then his infatuation with Natasha that is, he takes on numerology and becomes convinced that his life is intertwined with Napoleon. Suddenly Pierre remembers that he is a married man and stops visiting.

Petya insists on joining the army despite being 15 and against his parents’ wishes. It is hard to resist the patriotic fervor sweeps Moscow. When the Tsar visits Moscow Petya goes to see him and ask the nobles to recruit among the serfs. However, one cannot just walk up to the Tsar and Petya almost gets crushed in the crowd. Even though he didn’t get to meet, or even sure if he saw the Tsar from afar, he still wants to join the army. Seeing that Petya will not be dissuaded, Count Rostov makes some enquiries on a safe place to serve.

Nobles and merchants of Moscow gather to hear the Tsar’s appeal, the war is here and there is no going back.

Zohar – Man of la Book

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