Vol. I, Part 2, Ch. XIV-XXI: War then and now

September 7, 2013 in Nikolai Rostov, Vol. 1 Part 2, War, Why now?

The remainder of Volume I, Part II (chapters XIV through XXI) brings readers even closer to the action of warfare, to its ideals, and to its dangers. General Kutuzov, leading the Russian troops in Austria, must decide how to manage the growing threat of the French army. He has three options, and none of them promise much chance of victory.   Despite the odds, Kutuzov chooses correctly, or at least his choice leads to success for the Russians and Austrians. However, in these chapters we see that the even the best results are won only by way of a very
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Return to blogging

September 7, 2013 in War, Why lit?, Why now?

Dear Blog, It’s been a while. Over a month, in fact. In the past few weeks, Americans have been getting their fix of news about Russia, what with Edward Snowden’s asylum case, Russia’s new anti-gay laws, and talk about boycotting the Sochi Olympics. Russia’s stance on the civil war in Syria is the most recent of such headlines, and currently politicians the world over are debating issues at the heart of this novel, the possibility of war and protestations for peace. Worn Piece must go on!  I was hoping to finish posting on Volume I by the end of August,
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Vol. 1, Part 2, Ch. VI-XIII: Battles begin

July 29, 2013 in Marya, Nikolai Rostov, Prince Andrei, Vol. 1 Part 2, War

Even once the war against the French begins, it seems that there is more dissension between the different ranks of the Russian troops than between the enemy armies. Standing with the Russians on a hill, we see a beautiful panorama of a town of white houses and red roofs. It’s nestled in a pine forest with “green treetops and bluish gorges,” and not far beyond the town lies a convent’s high towers peaking over the trees. The view which had been obscured behind “a muslin curtain of slanting rain” looks “freshly varnished” in the new sunlight. It’s a calm before
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Vol. 1, Part 2, Ch. I-V: First glimpses of the war front

July 26, 2013 in Napoleon, Nikolai Rostov, Prince Andrei, Vol. 1 Part 2, War

The last words of my previous post have proved to be famous…and I’m now eating them. Mastered the principal characters indeed! In Part 2 of Volume 1 we move to the war front and so are introduced to a whole new cast. Prince Andrei and Nikolai Rostov are familiar, but there are dozens of new faces, most all of them male, being in a war zone. The female faces appear merely for soldiers to ogle them, so they don’t count for much figuratively or literally, being only three in number. This section is more about the battles within the Russian
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New Word 2: Beetling

July 17, 2013 in New Words, Nikolai Andreevich

“The old man was in high spirits following his before-dinner nap.…He joyfully cast sidelong glances at his son from under his thick, beetling brows.” “The old man” with the feature in question would be Chief Prince Nikolai Andreevich. According to the OED, beetling means “projecting, overhanging.” It cites Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1623) as an early print example: “The dreadfull Sonnet of the Cliffe, That beetles o’re his base into the Sea.” If you swap “summit” for “Sonnet,” the sentence makes more sense, and there’s no shame in doing so, as apparently “Sonnet”  was a typo that many modern editions correct. Andy Rooney,
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Vol. 1, Part 1, Ch. XXII-XXV: Intellect and country living

July 16, 2013 in Marriage, Marya, Nikolai Andreevich, Pierre, Prince Andrei, Prince Vassily, Vol. 1 Part 1, War

If you like English “country house” novels, then this section which wraps up Part 1 of Volume 1 is just your cuppa. We have a grand estate with its requisite rich eccentrics, though here the man of the house seems to be very much in control of his fortune and his daughter is an upstanding figure, a moral ironside even. It is the outside world that seems irrational, so maybe this isn’t quite England…. The father and daughter of whom I write are Chief Prince Nikolai Andreevich and Princess Marya, the characters who I mentioned at the end of the
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Tolstoy for all! who have an internet connection, at least

July 7, 2013 in Reading Communities, The Writing Life, Translation, Why lit?, Why now?

Just learned from Russia Beyond the Headlines that a project has begun to make all 90 volumes of Tolstoy’s work available for free online. It’s called All Tolstoy in One Click. It’s in Russian, of course, but English speakers can’t complain, considering that the respected Maud translation of War and Peace is already free and available on Project Gutenberg. Hundreds of volunteers are reading scanned versions of the texts and correcting scanning errors before the work is posted. Hundreds more volunteers will be needed to finish the project. If you can read Russian and want to volunteer, just visit the
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Vol. 1, Part 1, Ch. XV-XXI: Dining, dancing, dueling, and passing on

July 6, 2013 in Natasha, Parties, Pierre, Prince Vassily, Vol. 1 Part 1

The dinner and the dance Chapter XV opens with a dinner party, or rather, a party of which dinner is a part. Pierre helps himself to every course, including soup à la tortue (turtle), savory pie, hazel grouse, and four different wines, each drunk indiscriminately from improper glasses. BTW: Apparently turtle soup was common in early American Fourth of July feasts (the early 1800s, which is also the period in which War and Peace is set), and coincidentally I was reading this bit on that holiday, just a couple days before posting. Sarah Lohman, a “historic gastronomist,” says “Instructions for butchering a
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Vol. 1, Part 1, Ch. VII-XIV: Teen and tween trouble-making

June 26, 2013 in Napoleon, Pierre

In these next chapters we learn what the results of a “modern” upbringing are in early 19th century Russia: youngsters play rough not only with the police, but also with live bears. We find out that after leaving the party, Pierre took the dancing bear from the dinner club and put it in a carriage with the help of two others. They then tied the bear to a policeman and threw bear and officer into the river. Thus our companion to high and low Petersberg has been sent away from society to his home in Moscow and is holed up
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On Brainpickings

June 24, 2013 in Reading Communities, The Writing Life, Why lit?, Why now?

I recently discovered Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings blog, which she describes as a “cross-disciplinary LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces spanning art, design, science, technology, philosophy, history, politics, psychology, sociology, ecology, anthropology, and more; pieces that enrich your mental pool of resources and empower combinatorial ideas.”  Popova is after what she calls “interestingness” which is “what matters in the world and why,” and terms herself a “an interestingness hunter-gatherer.” Don’t let the reference to a neolithic lifestyle fool you; the blog is quite a feast, prepared with very modern technology.   Lucky for me, Popova seems to be a fan
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