Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Face Of War

Part Two has us in the thick of war. One of my favourite passages occurs when Natasha's brother, Nikolai, faces a rush of Frenchmen after being thrown from his horse:

From the Ann Dunnigan translation:
"He stared at the approaching Frenchmen, and although only a moment before he had been galloping ahead to reach these men and cut them down, their proximity now seemed to him so awful that he could not believe his eyes. "Who are they? Why are they running? Can they be coming to me? Really coming to me? Me whom everyone loves?" He recalled his mother's love for him, the love of his family and his friends, and the intention of the enemy to kill him seemed impossible. "But perhaps--they are not going to kill me!" He stood for more than ten seconds, not moving from the spot, not understanding his position.

The foremost Frenchman, the one with the hooked nose, was now so close that the expression on his face could be seen. And the excited, alien appearance of this man with his bayonet tilted forward, holding his breath and lightly running towad him, frightened Rostov. He grasped his pistol, but instead of firing flung it at the Frenchman and ran with all his might toward the bushes. He ran not with the feeling of doubt and conflict with which he had marched onto the Enns Ridge, but with the feeling of a hare fleeing from the hounds. One single feeling of fear for his young, happy life took possession of his whole being."

For those interested there is an article in the current issue of The Walrus magazine by David Gilmour, called My Life with Tolstoy. It is a memoir and focuses Gilmour's passion for Tolstoy, and particularly War and Peace, over the years.


Blogger Isabella said...

The war scenes haven't held much interest for me (it's like reading a foreign language, I simply don't understand troop movements and frontiers), but I'm finally finding my rhythm with them. As I reread bits to make sure I'm clear on the characters, their progression, I'm finding those little nuggets, like the passage you quote.

Thanks for the Walrus tip. Picked up a copy yesterday. Was wary of reading it yet for fear of spoilers, but I've encountered so many spoilers in the last week that seem to contradict each other or are so completely far off from my reading of the book thus far that it's almost like not having read any spoilers at all.

I do have to question how close Gilmour really is to W&P though when he describes it starting in Anna Pavlovna's luxurious Moscow apartments — it starts in Petersburg.

10:30 AM  

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