Blog Post

Tolstoy Journal, January 5, 2017

Thanks to Joshua Bodwell for announcing my Tolstoy Journal in The Peavey, the e-newsletter of the Maine Writers and Publishers Association (MWPA). Welcome to any readers who have arrived here via that link.

Last night I read up to p. 80, Chapter XVIII. These pages described how Anna Mikhailovna took her son, Boris, to Pierre’s father’s house to check on the dying man, ostensibly to help him get the religious aid one needs while dying but really to see if she could get money to pay for Boris’s uniform.

The chapters I read focus on the friendship of the countess Rostoff and the Princes Anna Mikhailovna, two old friends, and on the beginning of a friendship between Pierre and Boris. I will include two quotes to illustrate this but what just struck me is how much ground Tolstoy has covered in 80 pages. War, romantic love, society and politics, children, death, youth versus age. There is a Zen phrase, “skillful means,” and this describes how I think about Tolstoy covering so much ground so quickly. Light but deep. “Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee.”

Here are the two quotes about friendships, the first about Pierre and Boris, the second about the countess and Anna Mikhailovna.

Page 76: “After he [Boris] had gone, Pierre still paced for a long time up and down the room, no longer threatening an invisible enemy with the sword, but smiling at the thought of this intelligent, clever, and decided young man. As often happens in early youth, and especially when one is lonely, he felt an inexplicable affection for the young man, and promised himself that they would become good friends.”

Page 79: “Anna Mikhailovna interrupted her [the countess] by throwing her arms around her and bursting into tears. The countess wept with her. They wept because they were friends and because they were kind-hearted, and because, having been friends from childhood, they were now occupied with such a sordid matter as money, and because their you had passed.

“But theirs were good tears.”

 

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