So, I did it.
I read War & Peace.
My copy is as battered as my soul after this marathon of names I didn’t even try pronouncing out loud and war strategies which I’m still a little befuddled over.
Apart from that, and I never thought I’d be saying this about a 1253 page book, I would read it all over again. This is the book I take on a desert island. Long enough that you’d only have read it three times over before you’re rescued. If anyone wanted to read a big book ever in their life, this is the one. War & Peace is by far one of my favourite ( if not the best ever) books I’ve read this year. There’s just so much I want to talk about!
Let’s start with Tolstoy.
I went into W&P with a sense that Tolstoy was the Russian equivalent of Dickens and so, as you can imagine, I had a sense of weariness about me before I even began. But I was pleasantly surprised as I got about 50 pages in and his style was fluent and easy to follow (something I can’t say about Dickens-sorry Charlie!). I’m not sure whether this was down to my copy’s translation or Tolstoy himself, either way, kudos to them. I was just completely absorbed the entire book! I couldn’t have read it fast enough! It took me a good 25 days to push through and I don’t think I’ll ever regret my decision to start reading it.
Having never read any Russian literature and as someone who knows practically nothing about Russia nor its population apart from their preference for vodka and short sentences, its safe to say this book was an enlightening experience. It seems with W&P there is a before and an after. Before I was very acceptant of the stereotype we give Russia especially in the age of Putin. After, I’m open to ideas. I can’t get over the atmosphere this novel created of Russia and its vastness and how different everything is. I think with stereotypes we dehumanize people so that we can have a better idea of their identity. In reality, I’ve come to realize stereotypes are more damaging than helpful.
Russia has been transformed for me. I have this interest to just know more about this country and read books cataloguing its history and I want to visit St Petersburg in winter and immerse myself in a place so vast. I’ve got a crush on Russia and it’s all Tolstoy’s fault.
War & Peace is full of such poignant characters. In all the books I’ve read I’ve never come across a more human author and characters to fill his books. This book isn’t just a work of fiction, it’s a guidebook to morality and finding your identity and accepting your faults and weaknesses and being human. Pierre has become my favorite character for character development. That’s the beauty of all these characters, they develop as humans would and its beautiful to witness.
I loved, hated, forgave, cried, wished, dreamt and laughed with, over and for Natasha Rostov. Tolstoy never labelled his characters, he merely stated their feelings and their own analysis and left the rest to the reader who in turn looked at themselves. There is just so much you can learn from War & Peace and so much from it to live by.
I want to talk about the tragedy of Prince Andrei Bolkonsky. Damn. I really connected with this man. I just wanted to hug him and bring him back from his own thoughts into happiness. There’s a part in the book which I don’t think I’ll ever forget and its remained on the surface of my mind since I read it.
And a tormenting fear seizes him. And this fear is the fear of death: it is standing behind the door. But as he is crawling strengthlessly and awkwardly towards the door, this terrible something is already pushing against it from the other side, forcing it. Something inhuman- death- is forcing the door, and he has to hold it shut. He lays hold of the door, strains in a last effort- to lock it is already impossible- just to hold it shut; but his attempts are weak, clumsy, and, pushed by the terrible thing, the door keeps opening and shutting again.
Once more it pushes from the other side. His last supernatural efforts are in vain, and the two halves open noiselessly. It comes in, and it is death. And Prince Andrei died.
But in the same instant that he died, Prince Andrei remembered that he was asleep, and in the same instant that he died, he made an effort with himself and woke up.
“Yes, that was death. I died- I woke up. Yes, death is an awakening.” Clarity suddenly came to his soul, and the curtain that until then had concealed the unknown was raised before his inner gaze. He felt the release of a force that perviously had been as if bound in him and that strange lightness which from then on did not leave him.
Maybe its just me and my morbid soul but this, this gives me a sense of peace. Because don’t we all wonder whats on the other side of that door and isn’t it just a terrible fear of the unknown. Reading this, truly eased my heart and I know its “fiction” but just because it didn’t happen doesn’t mean its not real. At the end of the day we’re all going to be stood against that door on our last days waiting for it to open and just the notion of possible peace on the other side, well, it makes life easier to live rather than circling yourself with ideas of purgatory and hell and nothingness. Death is an awakening.
EN EE WAY.
I just loved War & Peace and there’s so much to talk about and I don’t think I’ll ever have enough time to pick apart every single part I loved, hated and adored. But I cried at least 3 times throughout this one. And laughed even more.
As I make my way through the classics, I do want to share my favourites and this is definitely one of them.
Just going to leave some of my favorite quotes and passages from this book down here to entice any of you who haven’t read it. Really read it. Clear your calendars and wrap yourself in a duvet and maybe get a pillow for your arm when you’re holding the book.
It’s so worth it.
“Love? What is love?” he thought. “Love hinders death. Love is life. Everything, everything I understand, I understand only because I love.”
“You see, friend,” he said “we’re asleep until we love. We’re children of dust… but fall in love- and you’re God, you’re pure as on the first day of creation…”
Science, that is, an imaginary knowledge of the perfect truth.
An Englishman is self-assured on the grounds that he is a citizen of the best organized state in the world, and therefore, as an Englishman, he always knows what he must do, and knows that everything he does as an Englishman is unquestionably good.
“If I were not I, but the handsomest, brightest, and best man in the world, and I was free, I would go on my hands and knees this minute and ask for your hand and for your love.”