Wednesday, April 7, 2010

ON BOOKS ~ Historians Suck, Suffering Transforms...

Tedy the cat is wondering when I'm going to finish this beast of a book so he can have my lap back.  Soon, Tedy, soon.  A week from today to be exact.  You see, Stacy and I have finished up Part Four and all that is left is the Epilogue.  Next week will be our final installment of Tolstoy's masterpiece.  Leading up to the big finale however, Tolstoy gave us some major concepts to chew on.

The first is that historians are clueless lackeys giving credit to the wrong people.  Napoleon is not a genius.  The Russian Commander In Chief, Kutuzov, was the real mastermind - who was like Rodney Dangerfield - he never got any respect.  This of course flies in the face of Leo's other point which is that the brightest general cannot control the lowly masses, who speak for the will of God.  But Tolstoy was a very bitter and very proud Russian.  So he piled praise onto the disrespected Russian commander and hated on the historians.  In between all of this, he gave us stunning literary prose through Pierre about transformation.  Forget about all of my other characters - only Pierre had a voice this week, and here's what he shared...

Still dead.  And when Pierre finally finds out, he thinks "Ah, how good, how nice!"  I don't fault him one bit.

When we last saw Pierre, he was getting used to life as a POW.  He was pulling himself up from the dregs of dispair in humanity.  As he became accustomed to his new life of deprivation, he began to learn that his priorities all along have been wrong.  To be happy is not about wealth, romantic love or action.  To be happy is to have food, shelter and life.  In captivity he has these things - nothing more - and finds happiness in his soul and with his fellow prisoners and captors.

Then, the retreat begins.  Things take a turn for the worse.  His friendly captors stop seeing their prisoners as humans and instead Pierre senses "it" from them - as he did when he witnessed the inhumane and horrific executions after his arrest.  It is clear that he is now a POW and not a human being to them.  And he is deprived even further of food and shelter.  His health is pushed to the limits during the long and brutal march away from Moscow and to the Russian border.  But he sinks further into his soul and sees that for all the efforts to steal his freedom, no one can put bars around the soul.  He is as free as the stars when he lives within himself.  And so he marches on, distancing himself from the friendships amongst his fellow prisoners.  Emotional attachments can lead to pain.  Survival instincts kick in.  He distracts himself from death by counting his steps and taking each step forward as a goal in life accomplished.

At the brink of death or abandonment by the French, he is liberated by a band of partisan warfare Russian soldiers - none other than Denisov, the strong willed but honorable soldier who stood up for Pierre's fallen duel vicitm way back before the world got so complicated.  Through Denisov, Pierre learns of his wife's death, his best friend Prince Andrei's survival and subsequent death under the care of Natasha, and of Natasha & Nikolai's little brother's death in battle under the command of Denisov.  Talk about a bad day.  Freedom contrasted with nothing but news of death.  So Pierre heads as far away as possible to recuperate and reflect.

Upon healing, Pierre heads back to Moscow - another place that is healing from the fires and looting of war.  Pierre has not lost his newfound perspective on life - that basic needs take priority over what society says are important.  That guiltless suffering is life's biggest challenge.  And that happiness exists by accepting all souls as valid.  He feels that his financial ruin (having lost much property to the destruction of war) has made him richer.  This new man is viewed very differently by those in high society who previously shunned or made fun of him.  He is comforting to everyone.  Respected.  Loved.  And just when he finds peace within himself, through God and contentment in personal freedom, he runs right into the insanity of true love.

On a visit to Maria to offer condolences for the loss of her brother, his friend, Prince Andrei, Pierre is shocked and pleasantly surprised to find Natasha, Andrei's ex-fiancee, living with Maria.  Natasha opens her heart to Pierre and Maria, spilling her guts about all that she has anguished over in grief of Andrei's death.  Pierre in turn bares his soul's education about what life has taught him through all his suffering.  And Maria sees the sparks of love between Pierre and Natasha.  He has awakened in grief stricken Natasha a reason for living - a path to guiltless suffering - that there is no blame in wanting to live when loved ones have died and left you behind.  He tells Maria he wishes to marry Natasha.  Natasha is ready to move on with Pierre.  And so I wait to see what happens in the end.

MIA from the pages.  His only reference is by his sister Natasha waxing hopefully of future plans for him to marry her new BFF, Maria.

She was MIA as well.  Her role as Natasha's confidant, friend and healer has been supplanted by the unlikely Maria.  That doesn't seem to bode well for her standing with the family and her dreams for marriage to Nikolai.

Hop over to Stacy's to hear more about Natasha and Maria's bonding after Andrei's death, as well as Denisov's role in the war.  Next week we'll have our final wrap-up and review of the overall book.  Like it's possible to review Tolstoy.  But we'll try.

Related Posts:
  • Volume 2, Parts 3, 4 & 5 - Soap


Margot said...

I enjoyed reading about Pierre and all the important lessons he has learned. I'm still waiting for Maria to have the happy-ever-after.

Susan said...

I'm tellin' and Stacy both deserve Medals of Honor for bringing this to us! I bow before you!

Malcolm R. Campbell said...

You know, I need to read this book someday. But not today: too busy reading WOLF HALL. Meanwhile, it's fun dropping in to read about your experience with the book and characters.


Anonymous said...

Ah, Pierre. I appreciate his insights. I find him charming in an honest and bumbling way. I did feel like Sonya got completely shut out once Maria showed up. Can't wait to see what the Epilogue has in store for these two.

Sandy Nawrot said...

May the patience of Job be with you! I love the picture of your displaced cat!

kayerj said...

I'm with Susan--I'll give you a medal. You've done such a good job with the weekly review's I'm not sure I'll have to read it now.

Mary (Bookfan) said...

I posted on Stacy's blog and wanted to do the same on yours, Molly:
So it's January 31, 2012 and I just finished reading War & Peace. You and Stacy inspired me to give it a go back in 2010 so I wanted to stop by your final post and say, well, thanks! I doubt I'll try to review it or even blog about it other than mention that I finished :) I'm glad I read it but happy to have the experience behind me. Whew!