Blog Post

Tolstoy Journal, January 25, 2017

Well, I have fallen off the wagon badly but still heading out west. I have read the first two chapters of Volume II, up to page 22. I have this problem where if I set a certain goal too tightly or rigidly then I rebel against it. So if I say, Freeman, you are going to read 20 pages a day, I say, Sure! But later, I say, no way, I don’t feel like reading 20 pages. But if I say I want to read two volumes of Tolstoy a month, willy-nilly, I have a chance of actually doing it. So that’s how I’m going to approach it from now on and I hope you enjoy it.

The photograph of Tolstoy below is of the frontispiece (not sure if that’s the right word) of Volume I. I will include photos of all these plus of the books themselves. Thanks to my wife for revamping the blog site and making it much more readable.

Here are some quotes from the last part of Volume I:

p. 234:”Prince Andrei looked contemptuously at the endless confusion of detachments, baggage-wagons, field pieces, and gun-carriages, and again baggage-wagons, baggage-wagons, baggage-wagons, of every possible description, trying to outstrip one another, and getting in one another’s way, as they toiled along over the muddy road, three and four abreast. In all directions, in front as well as behind, wherever the ear listened, were heard the creaking of wheels, the rumbling of vehicles, carts and gun-carriages, the trampling of horses’ feet, the cracking of whips, the shouts of drivers, the cursing of soldiers, servants, and officers.”

pp. 259-260:”Prince Andrei listened attentively to Prince Bagration’s conversation with his subordinates, and to the orders that he issued, and to his amazement discovered that in reality he did not give any orders at all, but that the prince only tried to give the impression that all that was done by his various officers either through necessity, chance, or volition, was done, if not exactly by his orders, at all events in accordance with his design. Prince Andrei noticed that, owing to the tact displayed by Prince Bagration, in spite of the fortuitousness of events and their absolute independence of the general’s will, his presence was of great importance. The subordinates, with distracted faces, who kept galloping up to the prince, instantly became calm; soldiers and officers received him with enthusiasm, and were animated by his presence and evidently took pride in displaying their courage.”

p.271 “The foremost Frenchman, with the hooked nose, had now come up to close to him that he could see the expression of his face. And the heated foreign-looking features of this man, who was coming so swiftly down upon him with fixed bayonet and bated breath, filled Rostof with horror. He grasped his pistol, but, instead of discharging it, flung it at the Frenchmen, and fled into the thicket with all his might. He ran, not with any of that feeling of doubt and struggle which had possessed him on the bridge at Enns, but rather with the impulse of a hare trying to escape from the dogs. One single fear of losing his happy young life took possession of his whole being. Swiftly gliding among the heather, with all the intensity with which he had ever run when playing gorelki, he flew across the field, occasionally turning round his pale, kindly young face, while a chill of horror ran down his back.”

I have one more passage from Volume I to share but not today. These passages, though, overwhelm me with their specificity, their motion, their insight into character. He tells and shows. And you are there alive with his characters.


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