Monday, September 13, 2010

War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

I picked it up thinking I wouldn't understand anything, but I simply felt it was now or never.
I read in the introduction somewhere it had over 500 characters, and that scared me more, for I was already scared of how huge the book was, and how heavy!
At first, I didn't get much and I was mixing up characters and I wasn't constant with my reading. When I got a little less than 200 pages, I decided that I had to give it its due, and if it didn't work out then at least I could say I tried. Suddenly, it got more interesting. I was interacting with the book and it felt good.
Bit by bit as I got more into the book I started loving it, truly loving it. The characters held me captive, though I disliked them at times. I had to read more. At night I wouldn't want to sleep because there was more to be read, and more yet to unfold.
A novel, though Tolstoy doesn't consider it as a novel, as big as War and Peace everything is relevant yet when you look back at certain events that took place a few pages back they look so insignificant compared to how everything worked out and how things were being shaped at that certain moment. Tolstoy keeps you hoping for a certain thing to happen, so you wait and you wait some more. He’s so good at his writing that just before that certain event happens, you no longer care if will take place or not, you’re only left wanting to know what happens next. Most of the time I felt I was being told a story of people that actually happened. They truly feel so real, that you’re simply left observing the course of their lives without judgment over how it turns out, you’re only studying these characters and you’re thinking them over.
Tolstoy was very concerned with history, and if you look at the title; War and Peace, it’ll tell you everything you should be expecting. It’s Tolstoy’s attempt at making us see things that actually happened in his reasoning. He wants us to know what actually happened, who was to blame and how people lived at that time. He truly wants you to understand history, and would take the trouble to dedicate chapters to relate this history and what historians said about the events he’s describing. I actually thought that was the fun part for him, while for me to be honest it was tedious work. I have never read history, and I don’t want to. I didn’t understand much of the ‘pure’ history parts, and I didn’t bother most of the time to concentrate on it. I simply read it to get to the good parts with the actual characters of the novel.
Coming to the characters, they were superb. Each one of them has something special and Tolstoy took the time to give each character life. All of the lead characters left an impression on me, though I have to speak of one certain character and that is Pierre. He is absolutely one of my favourite characters if not my all time favourite. He is amazing. His soul has such depth, that it’s impossible not to relate to him in everything he does or thinks of. I simply love him, and although he isn’t as charming as other characters in the novel, he has something that made me dwell much on him and on everything he did and thought. I can’t explain it by words but this character became very close to my heart after the time I spend with it, which was quite lengthy.
I will conclude by saying, it is a great novel and you must have the patience to understand what the author is trying to tell you to get the full enjoyment of it. I am grateful for having picked up the book at that certain moment defying my fears of it. Now I can proudly say I’ve read War and Peace, and I’ve enjoyed it.

Here are a few quotes I liked:

"Ha! ha! ha!" roared Pierre, and he went on talking aloud to himself. "The soldier would not let me pass. I was caught, I was shut up. They hold me captive. What, me? Me? My immortal soul! Ha! ha! ha!" and he laughed until the tears ran down his cheeks.

Page 802

And by old habit he asked himself the question: "Well, and what then? What am I going to do?" And he immediately gave himself the answer: "Well, I shall live. Ah, how splendid!"
The very question that had formerly tormented him, the thing he had continually sought to find- the aim of life- no longer existed for him now. That search for the aim of life had not merely disappeared temporarily- he felt that it no longer existed for him and could not present itself again. And this very absence of an aim gave him the complete, joyous sense of freedom which constituted his happiness at this time.
He could not see an aim, for he now had faith- not faith in any kind of rule, or words, or ideas, but faith in an ever-living, ever-manifest God. Formerly he had sought Him in aims he set himself. That search for an aim had been simply a search for God, and suddenly in his captivity he had learned not by words or reasoning but by direct feeling what his nurse had told him long ago: that God is here and everywhere.

Page 870

If I examine an act I performed a moment ago in approximately the same circumstances as those I am in now, my action appears to me undoubtedly free. But if I examine an act performed a month ago, then being in different circumstances, I cannot help recognizing that if that act had not been committed much that resulted from it- good, agreeable, and even essential- would not have taken place. If I reflect on an action still more remote, ten years ago or more, then the consequences of my action are still plainer to me and I find it hard to imagine what would have happened had that action not been performed. The farther I go back in memory, or what is the same thing the farther I go forward in my judgment, the more doubtful becomes my belief in the freedom of my action.

Page 950-951

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