War And Peace Diaries, I

War And Peace - Leo Tolstoy
War And Peace - Leo Tolstoy

Day 1: Introduction – 56

It opens with a French dialogue. Introduction excluded, of course. There are footnotes for translation. I don’t know any French so I resorted to those. And there are also various notes, which I did not bother reading. This is because those are located at the end of the book. I would have read them if they were on the same page, such as the case is in The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao. I gathered that since they were not conveniently placed, they must be for the nitpicker. I resolved not to be one this time.

So there’s this soiree. Characters are introduced page after page. One might compulsively list them down, but I didn’t bother. I just read and went on with the pace, which I found really fluid. Then I couldn’t figure out who the major players were. Pierre appears. Prince Andrei appears. They made a lasting impact on me, what with the outburst of opinions that they had on that high society soiree. They must be the protagonists. I checked the blurb at the back. I was right.

And there’s this Natasha, the woman in between according to the blurb. I doubt if she’s already menstruating at this point. And other characters came that I started to like. Vera. Boris. And a bunch of others that are described in detail. The princesses, counts, footmen. Their lips, hair, eye color, manner of speaking.

I made a reading plan. I am obsessing.

Day 2: 56 – 112

Another gathering, this time for a name day. I did not bother to research what a name day is. And a wealthy count is dying. Is it six or seven strokes? And everyone was on their toes. Everyone wants to know who will get to inherit all the riches of Count Bezukhov. People are expecting, people are even plotting and scheming. Hold on.

Pierre inherits everything, much thanks to Anna Mikhailovna’s meddling. I do not like this new count anymore because I just realized that he is fat. I know that right from the start, but it seemed to me that he gained weight with every flick of the page. You can curse me now, but I can’t help it. But I would have rooted for him more if Catiche and Prince Vassily got their ways. I just think that there’s more struggle in it. However, it would change it whole outcome of the book, so I will put my trust in the author for this.

And there’s Prince Andrei, who is leaving for the war. But before that, characters are introduced again, which are his sister Marya and his father. Perhaps all throughout this book, I will never cease marveling at the inclination of the author to character details. It’s like the words can come off the pages and recreate the scene in front of your eyes. The reader is so immersed that it doesn’t feel like reading anymore. It feels like you are being transported to that time and place. The little facial twitches, the dialogues, even the thoughts are so tangible.

And that’s the end of Volume One, Part One. Prince Andrei leaves on a dark autumn night. Ominous.

Day 3: 112 – 158

Now, here are the parts that I don’t like. War. Just a reminder, I never read a war-themed novel before because I don’t like war itself. And what was I thinking? This is War And Peace. But it’s supposed to be good, and I think it will be an achievement if I finish it. I gave it a chance as you see.

Soldiers are preparing and waiting for some action. New characters again. I should expect a lot of them. There’s Nikolai Rostov, brother of Natasha and Vera. He’s not really new, but he is given more focus at this part. I did not like him at first because I did not approve of his flirting with another girl in front of Sonya. They may be cousins, but I’d like them to end up together. But after the confrontation with a certain Telyanin, whom Nikolai accused of stealing Denisov’s money, my heart went out to him. By the way, Denisov is Nikolai’s superior, who talks with a “gh”, like Nighkolai, Telghyanin. Well, those are just examples.

And the soldiers finally find the day that they were waiting for. Live battle scenes. Russians versus the French men at the river Enns. Or was it the Danube? Anyway, they did not exactly win the battle; the ratio is like one Russian to three French. They get a little victory though, and Prince Andrei, now an adjutant of the general Kutuzov, is sent to relay this news to the emperor.

Day 4: 158 – 201

Most of the diplomats did not find the victory substantial, disappointing Prince Andrei’s heroic heart. And there is news of another attack. Another live battle scene.

I don’t want to go through all the battle details because it involves a lot of talk about the military, which I really cannot write and which brings back a bunch of not so good memories. Reading for the past two days reminded of the my cadet training days in high school. Right flank, left flank, rifles, company commanders, salutes, epaulettes, marching, rests. Wow. It really feels awkward looking back.

And yes, at the end of Volume One, Part Two, I almost burst out. The captain Tushin is berated by the generals in spite of the valiance that he showcased. He is at a loss for words to defend himself, and here comes Prince Andrei, giving him a lot of credit, for if it weren’t for his tactics at shooting cannonballs, their whole detachment would have been totally crushed.

And Nikolai. I used to like him, but I want him to die now. He whines a lot. But he can’t help it, he’s young, he’s feverish with idealism, and he is coming to terms with the realities of life. This novel, indeed, is about the complexities of living.