January 3rd, 2022
I've been reading this a few days now, but haven't written anything. I already read Part 1 of the book years ago, but got distracted and never went back. Now I'm reading a physical book, so that won't be an issue. The first part introduces a lot of characters and is hard to keep track of them all at first. You're taken through various events of the upper class in St. Petersburg and Moscow. Some of the characters are very likeable, some are annoying, which is good writing. I started the second part already, which takes place during the War of the Third Coalition in 1805. This is the campaign that ends in Austerlitz, so we know it won't end well for our Russian friends. Three of the characters (so far) introduced in Part 1 take part in this campaign. Hopefully, they make it home. I have to make a couple complaints about the translation. I know little enough Russian that I can spot non-idiomatic translations. Some of the them just sound funny in English. Unfortunately I don't know enough Russian that I could read the book in Russian. But while looking up some things in the Russian copy, I noticed footnotes. There's a lot of French sprinkled throughout the conversations and I know zero French. The Russian copy I saw online had footnotes that translated the French into Russian. Not so in my English copy. I understood the French through the Russian.
January 5th, 2022
Finished Part 2, which ends with a battle of General Bagration's forces and the French under Murat and Lannes. None of the main characters die. Prince Andrew Bolkonski is shaken by the Battle of Schoengrabern, but forms a connection with artillery officer Captain Tushin. The Russians are forced to retreat, but the left flank, where Nicholas Rostov's hussars are, is trapped. They must attack and break through
the lines to retreat. Rostov's horse is killed and he is injured. His arm is broken or sprained and he walks through some bushes into the Russian infantry. He is temporarily taken in by Tushin's retreating group. Tushin's artillery is credited by Bolkonski as saving the Russian army from complete destruction. Though the Russians were forced to retreat, Bagration's forces reunite with General Kutuzov's. It's a good section, but some of the military jargon can be a bit dull.
January 8th, 2022
Unfortunately, it looks like I keep forgetting to write. I read the black history book on the 6th and War and Peace pretty much every day. I finished Part 3 of War and Peace, which showed the Bolkonski family and Kuragin family. Prince Vasili wanted to marry his son Anatole to Mary Bolkonski, but she caught him with her attractive French friend and decided to say no. Her father, the old Prince, I guess would be considered rather liberal in allowing his daughter to make the choice. He was pleased, knowing that Anatole was a moron and that he would be distraught to be separated from his daughter, no matter how severe he is. The Rosotovs received a letter from Nicholas after his wounding and they send him money after his promotion. The section ends with the Battle of Austerlitz, which was a disaster for Russia. Rostov requested to be on the front line and, being somewhat obsessed with the emperor, gladly risks his life to deliver a message, only to find the battle decisively over and the emperor in tears. He decides not to bother him. Prince Andrew Bolkonski is with General Kutuzov, whose forces run at the first sign of battle. Bolkonski grabs the dropped colors and leads a charge towards the French, only to be wounded. He wakes up after the battle where he fell and finds Napoleon inspecting the dead. Napoleon hears he is alive and has him taken to the French field hospital, a prisoner. Forgot to mention, Pierre, now Count Bezukhov, marries Prince Vasili's daughter Helene.
January 9th, 2022
Part 4 wasn't very long, so I read the whole section. Nicholas Rostov returned home and brought Denisov with him. Rostov had also befriended Dolokhov. Count Rostov was throwing a banquet in honor of General Bagration, who came out as a hero in the campaign. General Kutuzov was looked down upon, and Bolkonski was dead. Pierre was at this banquet and sat across from Rostov, Denisov, and Dolokhov. We must remember that Pierre and Dolokhov were kind of friends at some point and were both involved in tying a police officer to a bear in St. Petersburg. Now, there were rumors that Dolokhov was involved with Pierre's wife. He did not believe it, but saw the familiar sadistic look on Dolokhov's face. After some disrespect from Dolokhov, Pierre snapped and challenged him to a duel. It was assumed that Pierre would be killed, but despite never firing a pistol before, Pierre shot Dolokhov in the gut. Dolokhov did not die, and he and Rostov grew closer while he healed. Pierre was confronted by his wife, who Pierre now acknowledged that he did not and never had loved, claiming that the rumors were completely untrue. Pierre left for St. Petersburg. Meanwhile, at the Bolkonski estate, the old Prince and Princess Mary hid from the little Princess that Andrew was dead. They would tell her after she gave birth, which would be soon. When the princess went into labor, a man, presumably the doctor, arrived at the estate. Mary went out to greet him, for he was French and knew no Russian, but to her surprise it was her brother. Prince Andrew went to see his wife, who was in great pain. A son was born, but the princess had died. Back in Moscow, Dolokhov had fallen in love and proposed to Sonya. She rejected him because she could only love Nicholas. Denisov had fallen in love with Natasha, and accidentally proposed, and was turned down. A new campaign was beginning (it was the beginning of 1807) and he left the next day embarrassed. Dolokhov's farewell party was a small card game, in which, out of malice, he got Nicholas to lose 43,000 rubles to him. Nicholas shamefully had to ask his father, who barely had money. He was able to get it, and Dolokhov was paid. Nicholas then left to rejoin his regiment in Poland.
January 11th, 2022
Started Part 5. So far Pierre was approached by a stranger in a station as he was contemplating his miserable life. This man lectured him and invited him to a masonic lodge, where Pierre became a member, desparate to find some path towards a virtuous life. Boris, now an aide-de-camp to someone important, is the guest of interst at one of Anna Pavlona's gatherings. He is a special messenger from the Prussian court after they lose Auerstadt and their war with Napoleon.
January 13th, 2022
Finished part 5 today and yesterday. Pierre thinks he is improving his land and lives of his peasants. He wants to free his serfs. However, he doesn’t know much and is taken advantage of by an overseer who just wants to profit. Pierre thinks he is doing good, but it is really a facade and the lives of the peasants are the same if not worse. He visits Bolkonski and it is awkward. They have become different people over the past two years. After some time, they come to discuss morality and how one should live. Pierre espouses his Masonic
views and Bolkonski believes the goal of life is to improve (or less the the pain of) the existence of oneself while harming as few people as possible. This disagreement animates the two and their friendship begins to appear as before. Bolkonski is temporarily brought out of his slump. They go to Andrew’s father’s and Pierre is well received by the old prince and Mary. He feels at home. Then the story cuts to Rostov, back with is regiment. He does not take place in any battles such as Elyau or Friedland, but conditions are still horrible and the men are starving. Denisov decides to commandeer an infantry wagon full of provisions and is court martialed. He is shot in the leg and goes to the hospital to buy time. Ultimately he gives up and tries to get a pardon. Rostov visits him and sees the deplorable hospital conditions, men on the floor next to dead patients. The officers’ quarters are of course better, but still smells of decaying flesh. Rostov agrees to take his paper to the Emperor’s court at Tilsit, where he and Napoleon will be meeting to sign a treaty. We know from history that Alexander grows very fond of Napoleon on this day. Rostov meets Boris, and it seems that they can’t stand each other anymore. Quite the juxtaposition compared to Pierre and Andrew. Rostov sees Napoleon and Alexander, and his old general agrees to talk to the Emperor for him. Alexander declines the pardon. I really hope nothing bad happens to Denisov.
January 15th, 2022
Part 6 has been very interesting so far. Bolkonski, on a business visit to the Rostov's country home, arrives in his pessimistic mood. Hearing the optimism and carefree-ness of a young girl who doesn't even seem to notice him (Natasha), he is inspired. He decides he wants to live a life and do something. He works on army reforms and goes to Petersburg to push them. The Emperor has no interest in him, even dislikes him, so he goes through other channels. He is put on a committee and forms a relationship with the sort of secretary of state Speranski. This is during one of Alexander's liberal phases, and Bolkonski ends up on a committee to write new laws on human rights. Pierre is struggling with his Masonry. It's hard to summarize, but he is very conflicted about everything. He tries to inspire the Russian Masons to act better and is met with some derision. In his depression, he concedes to reconciling with his wife, who is famed for her intellectual salon. Despite her stupidity, she is a much sought after hostess. Boris attends every day, and something about this bothers Pierre. He tries to avoid another Dolokhov situation, but when Boris becomes a Mason, he flips out. He struggles with his total aversion to Boris, who is very close to his wife. Count Rostov needs money and looks for work in Petersburg. Boris had avoided the Rostovs since first going off to war, but now pays them a visit. He had no intentions of marrying Natasha, but he sees her now at 16 and is enthralled. She is equally infatuated with him again. Boris comes to the Rostov's every day, despite the pleas of Helene. After a long talk, the countess pulls Boris aside and puts a stop to it for both his and Natasha's sake.
January 16th, 2022
There was a ball in Petersburg, which was to be Natasha's first. It was obviously a big deal for her and, in her usual energy, was very excited. However, at the ball she went for a long time without being asked to dance and was on the verge of tears. Pierre knew how good a dancer she was and sent Bolkonski to dance with her. They had a great time and after that many men were asking Natasha to dance. Bolkonski visited the Rostovs the next day, and instead of having his earlier disdain for them, saw them as a warm and lovable family. He stayed for dinner and requested Natasha to sing, which brought tears to his eyes. It is evident that Bolkonski had fallen in love with the girl. The Emperor had announced some plans for reforms, and instead of exciting Bolkonski, he felt nothing, even dejected. A dinner at Speranski's brought him even lower. Instead of idolizing Speranski, Bolkonski saw him as artificial and felt no enjoyment while all the other guests laughed and told stories. He left early and felt his all of his work to be stupid. He wanted to live and do something exciting. He wanted to plan his son's future, go see different countries of Europe. He began to see things Pierre's way, that one must understand happiness in order to pursue it. Bolkonski has changed his world view three times already. I am not convinced this positive outlook will last.
January 21st, 2022
Part 7 looks like a Nicholas Rostov section. I’m not a big fan of him. He’s comes off as a real douchebag. He was guilted into coming home to deal with the financial decline of his family. He learned of Natasha’s engagement and wasn’t pleased. He must remember there encounter from 5 years ago, and probably finds the age gap weird. It’s his only sister, after all. Then the chapter goes on for 10 pages about a very boring hunt. We are introduced to their “Uncle”, who is a neighbor and distant relative. Nicholas, Natasha, and Petya dine with Uncle after the hunt and Natasha is fascinated by his lifestyle. It is very laidback and there is music from the serfs and then from Uncle. Natasha is off on another whirlwind of emotions, which seems to come to her very often and easily. Then a carriage comes for them and they go home.
January 22nd, 2022
Finished Part 7. It wasn't very long. The rest of the section isn't so boring, though there isn't much to talk about. Natasha is struggling with her absence from Bolkonski. She is very childlike and does not handle her emotions maturely, but I think she still loves him. Countess Rostov wants Nicholas to marry Julie Karagina because she is a rich heiress who would solve their money problems. This upsets Nicholas, who would be willing to do it if commanded but wants to marry for love. Then it is Christmas and some serfs come dressed in as mummers. This inspires the children to dress up and then they end up going to a widow neighbors house. Along the way, Nicholas admires Sonya in his sled and it dawns on him how much he actually loves her. Outside of the house they kiss. The next day he tells his mother his intention to marry Sonya. She is upset and takes it out on Sonya and Nicholas nearly leaves for good when Natasha tries to smooth things over. Neither of the parents are pleased, but the Count knows that they financial situation is his fault and thus cannot say much. The section ends with (if I can recall) the Count, Nicholas, and Natasha going to Moscow to sell the family estate there. Allegedly, Bolkonski recently arrived in town to see his father. So begins Part 8.
Part 8 begins with a depressed Pierre. He has gone from an energetic youth with big ideas to a rich man who does nothing. He finds life to have no meaning and only brings him grief. He has nothing to distract him from the emptiness of existence. He constantly drinks to dull the pain and bury the dark thoughts. To avoid embarrassing his wife, he left Petersburg for Moscow, though she shortly follows him there. Count Rostov, Natasha, and Sonya arrive in Moscow to manage their affairs. They stay at a friend’s house; I forget her name, but she was introduced in Part 1 and is very fond of Natasha. This friend orchestrates a meeting between the Rostovs and Bolkonskis. The Old Prince is getting worse in his old age and more irritable and cruel. He is relentless towards Mary, who starts to find the same traits in herself as she teaches her 6 year-old nephew. The Count is terrifed of the old man, but the prince says he is not seeing anyone that day. Rostov excuses himself, and Natasha, Mary, and the French girl are alone, though the French girl does not see that she is in the way. Mary decided to dislike Natasha ahead of time, and the meeting is cold and uncomfortable. At the prince’s name day dinner, Mary confesses to Pierre that she would marry anyone to get out of that house, which the prince has threatened to kick her out of. Boris, wanting to marry a rich heiress, had alternated between Mary and Julie Karagina (don’t confuse her with the Kuragins). Ultimately, he proposes to Julie so that Anatole Kuragin can’t. It’s all a game. Now the Rostovs are at the opera and the show is about to start.
January 25th, 2022
Continued Part 8, and there are some things I do not like. At the opera, Anatole Kuragin was making eyes at Natasha and she fell for his tricks. Helene is in cahoots with him and invited her over. Anatole has a reputation, and even had a secret shotgun wedding in Poland. He is incapable of loving a woman. It’s all a game to him. Helene hints she knows about the betrothal, through Pierre, but partners with her brother anyway. The Kuragins are truly despicable. She invites the Rostovs to some performance at the Bezukhov’s and Anatole plants a kiss. Natasha thinks she is in love with him. I guess I can’t blame her because she is only like 16 and doesn’t know anything, but she is blind to the fact that he is not a good person and Bolkonski is. Poor Bolkonski.
January 26th, 2022
Sonya found out about Natasha and Anatole and confronts her. She sees what Natasha is blind to, but Natasha refuses to listen. Natasha writes to Mary to end the engagement, and Sonya smells out a plot. Natasha is going to run away with Anatole and elope. Dolokhov has set everything up for Anatole, but advises him to quit. When the men reach the house, they are invited in. Dolokhov smells a trap and they leave. The hostess found out from Sonya about the situation and tried to trap Anatole. She is livid with Natasha, who is unrepentant. They hide the situation from the Count, but he can tell something is awry. Bolkonski returns to Moscow, and Pierre goes to see him. He can tell that
Andrew is hurt, but will not show it. Andrew is bitter but will move on with his life. He will pour his energy into something else. Mary and the old prince are happy. Bolkonski has heard about the elopement, but Pierre tells him it did not happen. Pierre is tasked with delivering some things to the Rostovs. He is given the whole story and is disgusted. He tells the hostess of Anatole’s secret marriage and is tasked with telling Natasha. That night she drinks arsenic, but confesses what she had done and is given an antidote. Pierre in a rage takes Anatole and tells him he must leave Moscow. I may be mixing up the order of events. Natasha wishes to speak to Pierre once more before they leave Moscow, and he tells her, in another life, he would have loved her. Natasha is very dumb and immature. I understand that she is not very educated and sheltered, but Sonya is able to see that this is a bad situation. Thank god for Sonya. It is 1812, so we should be seeing the invasion of Russia soon. It will not go well for some of our characters.
January 27th, 2022
Started Part 9. This section seems to be more historical than the others. Tolstoy opens up with a description of events leading up to Napoleon’s invasion and questions the causes, or whether it was inevitable. The rest so far is centered on Napoleon and his Marshals. The Tsar is in Poland, on the other side of the Neman, at a ball when news of Napoleon’s invasion reaches him. Boris overhears this and is commanded to stay quiet. General Balashov is sent to Napoleon’s camp with a letter to the Emperor, but is held up by Marshal Davout. He is made to travel with the French army and several days later he is back in the town where he started. I believe here he will meet Napoleon.
January 30th, 2022
Read yesterday and finished Part 9 today. Balashov was given an audience with Napoleon, which went nowhere. It was to be war. Bolkonski was restless and wished to find Anatole Kuragin and, more or less, kill him. Both men were in the army, but every time Bolkonski arrived to Kuragin’s location, Anatole was already gone. Bolkonski had stopped a Bald Hill and found it to be divided into his father’s camp and his sister’s, who did not interact with each other any more. It was not the place he remembered and very uncomfortable. After defending his sister against his father, Prince Andrew left. He had gone to Turkey when peace with them was concluded, and then to the Emperor’s camp on the Russian frontier. After a meeting of the generals, Andrew requested of the Emperor not to serve in his retinue, but at the front. Meanwhile, Nicholas Rostov was back in the army and a new campaign had begun. He wished to go home to marry Sonya, but felt it wrong to leave his regiment at this time. Witnessing a charge of French dragoons, he acted quickly and attacked with his hussars. He knocked one off of his horse and took him prisoner, but felt sick afterwards. He did not know why, but it was probably the thought of potentially killing another man made him feel remorseful. He was rewarded with the St. George’s Cross for his bravery, though he felt low and like a coward. In Moscow, Natasha was slowly recovering but would never be the same care-free girl. She found solace in religion and become noticeably healthier. It seems that Pierre was deeply in love with her. He felt less depressed, but continued his drinking and lazy ways. The Emperor came to Moscow, and Pierre was hoping there would be a sort of Estates-General, though the Emperor only met with a select council and it was agreed that the nobility of Moscow would supply conscripts from their serfs. Count Rostov and his son Petya were swept up in patriotism, and the Count let Petya join the hussars at only 15.
January 31st, 2022
Part 10 begins with Tolstoy describing the war, of Napoleon’s advance and of Russia’s retreats. It must have been a common thought that the Russian retreats were part of a plan to bring Napoleon deeper into the country and the French, despite knowing their supply lines were thin, advanced nonetheless. Tolstoy claims this is nonsense, that the Russians had every intent on fighting but didn’t, and that Napoleon gave no thought to his supply lines and only cared about the chase. I believe the part about the Russians, but I recall from other reading that Napoleon was desperate for a battle. This drove him further in chase of the Russians. Then taking Moscow was to force peace on his terms, but the Russians didn’t care. I don’t mean to jump ahead. At this point, the Grand Armee is marching on Smolensk, which is a short ride from Bald Hills. Bolkonski warns his father, but the old prince is very senile at this point and doesn’t act. He sends a man to Smolensk to buy some building supplies when the battle breaks out. He is in the city as it is bombarded and later in his escape he meets Prince Andrew. Andrew is unhappy to hear that his family has not left yet and sends a note telling them to leave for Moscow immediately.
February 2nd, 2022
The Bolkonski's had not gone to Moscow, and the old prince decided to go back to Bald Hill and man the defenses. He shortly after suffered a stroke, and they took him to Prince Andrew’s estate to get away from the front line. In a very sad exchange between Princess Mary and her barely intelligible father, he expressed how much he really always cared for her. Mary, who is feeling guilty for thinking about the positive aspects of her father’s death, is surprised and feels even more guilt. The old prince dies. Mary is in a deep depression when the French girl comes up to her. They reconcile a bit, and the French girl suggests they stay and will be in safe hands when the French come. Mary is disgusted by the thought of being with the French army and orders for the household to get ready to go to Moscow. The peasants, believing some rumor that if they stay they will be safe and well paid by the French, refuse to let her go. At this point, Rostov rides into the estate to take supplies before the French come and sees the situation. He offers to help Mary leave. They’ll probably fall in love.
February 3rd, 2022
Rostov punches the peasant who seemed to be commanding the rabble for not taking off his hat. The peasants, now frightened by the soldier, obeyed and Princess Mary was able to leave for Moscow. As predicted, Mary seems to be in love with Rostov. Andrew Bolkonski meets with Kutuzov, who has been made commander-in-chief of the army. Bolkonski meets Denisov here, who wants to offer his plan of guerilla warfare to Kutuzov. Kutuzov and Bolkonski mourn over the death of the old prince, and he offers Bolkonski a role on his staff. Bolkonski declines, saying he wants to remain on the front with his regiment. Kutuzov is disappointed, he views Andrew as a son, but understands. Bolkonski feels a sense of optimism now that Kutuzov has the supreme command. Back in Moscow, people are feeling light despite the approaching danger. Pierre has whipped up a large and expensive regiment. Due to his love of Natasha, he has avoided the Rostovs for a month. We will probably encounter them next.
February 4th, 2022
As many people are evacuating Moscow, Pierre struggles with the decision of whether to stay or go. After seeing a crowd flog a French chef, he decides to leave for the army. Tolstoy gives his opinion on the Battle of Borodino and whether it was part of a grand strategy that history apparently has given it in order to bolster the fame of Kutuzov (who, if I am not mistaken, will take ill and die shortly after). Pierre’s carriage is in traffic with soldiers and carts of wounded men, and he witnesses a procession of some sort of icon of the Virgin Mary from Smolensk. Then he goes to a high hill to get a good view of the battle, where an officer points out to him the Russian and French forces.
February 5th, 2022
Quite a bit has happened. Pierre ran into Boris, who was happy to show him about the fortifications. With Boris was Dolokhov, who asked Pierre for forgiveness from their earlier duel. On his travels, Pierre came across Bolkonski, who was evidently displeased to see him. They had a heated discussion about war and then Bolkonski went to bed. Pierre, feeling the hostility, went this separate way to Boris’ lodgings. Tolstoy talks about the history of the battle, his thoughts on why the battle turned out the way it did and on the course of history in general. He gives some scenes from Napoleon’s perspective. Pierre awakes to find the battle started. He wanders up to the front line, to the annoyance of the military men, and follows an adjutant he knows to a redoubt on a hill. After the initial annoyance, the local squadron adopts him like a stray dog. The battle here is intense, with much shelling incoming and outgoing. Pierre runs down the hill to get ammo, when the cart explodes. He comes to and runs up the hill to find it swarmed with French. He and a French officer grapple with each other when a Russian charge drives the French back. Pierre then leaves the front. I think he ends up back at Kutuzov’s, or maybe the scene just switches. Kutuzov, despite objections from the German De Tolly, the order is to attack the next day. Bolkonski’s regiment is in reserve and does nothing. Despite being idle, they lose a third of their men to artillery fire. A shell lands next to Bolkonski and explodes. He is severely wounded and probably going to die. When taken to the surgeon’s tent, he sees a familiar man getting his leg amputated next to him. It is Anatole Kuragin. Tolstoy discusses why neither side launched a finishing blow that day. The Russians, he says, were exhausted and had defended their ground, thus were successful already. The French, despite Napoleon not sending in the Imperial Guard and other reinforcements, could not have launched a final attack. They were too dejected and the army would have crumpled. Maybe this is true. Thus ends part 10. I assume part 11 will include the fate of Moscow.
February 6th, 2022
Not a whole lot of summarizing to be had. It’s one of those bits you kinda just have to read for the writing. The Russians did not have the strength for a counter attack and start a long retreat. Pierre wakes up from a strange dream into a kind of existential crisis. Along his way home, he learns of the deaths of Anatole and Bolkonski. Kutuzov decides to retreat from Moscow, though Tolstoy claims this was an inevitability and it was never a choice he had the power to make. In Petersburg, Helene is playing some games with some guys and somehow ends up Catholic and trying to get her marriage ended. Pierre arrives back in Moscow and everything is in disarray. Instead of really doing anything, he leaves town. The Rostovs are still in Moscow, but are now packing. Nicholas was not near the battle, but Petya has been transferred to Moscow by the finagling of his mother. Little did she realize this would be the most dangerous spot. Natasha seems back to her old self. Troops are pouring into Moscow, and the Rostovs open their yard and house to the wounded. One of the wounded who arrives is Bolkonski. I don’t see the point of saying he is dead and 5 pages later saying he is not. That’s not a lot of time to grieve. Plus, this is the second time Tolstoy pulled this trick. Now when Bolkonski really dies, I’m not going to believe it. Will that make me feel worse to find out he is really dead, or will it take the feeling out? Or maybe he won’t die at all. Maybe Anatole isn’t dead. I get that in war there is a lot of confusion, so maybe that’s the point. Let’s see where it goes. I’m going to be pissed if he just dies of his wounds 5 pages later.
February 7th, 2022
The Rostovs finally get it together to leave the house, and some of the wounded soldiers ask if they can ride in the carts. The Count absent mindedly agrees and the countess is upset that they will be leaving stuff behind, that he is losing more money that will be his children’s inheritance. Natasha is sickened by her mother and stands up for the helping of the wounded. She starts running the show and the unpack some of the things and load up the wounded. Sonya learns that in a carriage is a dying Bolkonski and tells the Countess, and they hide this from Natasha. They hit the road and on the way see a familiar man dressed in a driver’s outfit. It is Pierre. After he left his house, he went to his dead Mason benefactor’s to take care of his books by the widow’s request. He had sat in the library a long time thinking and spent the night. He asked the host (butler, valet, I don’t know the proper term) for the outfit and a pistol. They were on their way for the pistol when spotted by Natasha. It seems Pierre will remain in Moscow and fight, probably to die. Why?
February 8th, 2022
Finished off Part 11 and a lot has happened. The French have taken Moscow. Kutuzov gives the order for retreat and Count Rostopchin, the governor who has long been in denial of this inevitable, has to deal with the consequences of telling people to prepare for battle. He takes a political prisoner who was blamed for a pamphlet and sowing discontent, sentenced to hard labor and most likely innocent, and puts him before a mob that formed in his yard. After the man is beaten, he is given to the crowd who kills him. All are later disgusted with their actions and Rostopchin sneaks away. He is historically credited/blamed with starting the fires, though Tolstoy claims they are just as likely to happen in an abandoned wooden city full of soldiers smoking and cooking. Pierre was going to join the defense of the city, but it never formed and he went back to his benefactor’s. He then decides to assassinate Napoleon. Ruminating for hours, the drunk brother of the benefactor steals Pierre’s pistol and fires at a French officer who has come to the front door. Pierre disarms him and the Frenchman thanks Pierre for saving his life. They talk all night and drink and afterwards Pierre feels guilty about fraternizing with his foe. Meanwhile, Natasha had learned of Bolkonski’s presence and sneaks out at night to find him. They have a touching reunion and she becomes like a nurse to him, though it is still uncertain if he will live. While the city burns, Pierre goes out to look for Napoleon. He is much to late for the opportunity, but directs his energy towards rescuing a young girl from a burning building. On his return, he finds some French assaulting a beautiful Georgian woman and goes berserk. Pierre is then arrested under suspicion of being an arsonist.
February 9th, 2022
Part 12 opens up at St. Petersburg as they hear of the progression retreating and burning of Moscow. Bagration died of his wounds at Borodino. The Emperor is assured by a messenger of Kutuzov that the army is not demoralized and will fight Napoleon once it has its strength back. It is then revealed that Helene has taken ill and then dies. Tolstoy takes a moment to state that history looks back on important times like these and assumes or claims that everyone is taken with patriotism and doing their part to advance the cause of the country. He claims that in reality, people as just concerned with their own affairs as in any situation and this leads to better results, while those few who are actually striving for the “greater good” are getting in the way and hindering. Then story takes us back to Nicholas Rostov, who missed the Battle of Borodino. Per Tolstoy’s theory, Rostov was not interested in the cause and fighting the battle, but glad to be on an errand to get away from the army. He spends some time procuring horses in a provincial town and goes to the governor’s, who’s wife was apparently once a good friend of the countess. At dinner, which turned into a ball, he is told that Mary Bolkonskaya’s aunt is there and they talk. It seems that these ladies are colluding to set up Nicholas and Mary. Poor Sonya.
February 10th, 2022
The countess has been imploring Sonya to “free” Nicholas. She is hesitant, but when she see’s Natasha and Bolkonski together, she assumes he will live and they will marry. Apparently you could not marry your sister-in-law, so Sonya “frees” Nicholas thinking he will not be able to marry Princess Mary. Then in Moscow, Pierre and several other men are tried and sentenced before Davout. Pierre pleads before Davout and is left in the dark of his fate. Twelve men are led to a firing squad, with Pierre sixth in line. The first two are led to the firing line and executed by sad and reluctant soldiers. Pierre looks away and continues to look away as the next two are executed. The fifth, a factory worker of about 18, is led off and Pierre watches his horror and realization as his death is impending. The soldiers again reluctantly kill this man. Pierre was pardoned and kept in a sort of holding cell. Pierre is disgusted with humanity and shaken to his core after these killings. In jail, a peasant-soldier tries to cheer him up. They talk and Pierre observes him the 4 weeks he is held. This man brings some of the humanity back to Pierre, which he thought he had lost after seeing the murdering machination of the army executions. Back to Princess Mary, she takes some of her household to find her brother, who was likely on his death bed. I wonder if Pierre ever found out that his friend was still alive. Mary arrives at the current dwelling of the Rostovs and finds the family strange and annoying. Only in Natasha, who she once disliked, could she find someone who understood her mindset. Two days ago, Andrew had come to accept his death. He was cold to his sister as she represented the world of the living, which he no longer was a part of. He went through the motions and shortly after he died. For real this time. Pretty sad but its been obvious for a long time. So ends Part 12. Poor Natasha.
February 11th, 2022
Part 13 is mostly a historical chapter where Tolstoy waxes on his anti-great man theory and talks about how Kutuzov was unable to stop the Russians from attacking the French after they left Moscow. The first chapter starts with a very good observation about people, which I know I have seen for myself, and probably in myself. I will print it here.
Man’s mind cannot grasp the causes of events in their completeness, but the desire to find those causes is implanted in man’s soul. And without considering the multiplicity and complexity of the conditions any one of which taken separately may seem to be the cause, he snatches at the first approximation to a cause that seems to him intelligible and says: “This is the cause!” The Russians do what anyone would do and march where there was supplies. The French did what was inexplicable and not only stuck around until winter to leave, not only didn’t winter in a decently supplied city, but march back along the same path which they devastated. Napoleon was seeking peace terms with Kutuzov and refused. It was clear that the French were weak and the game was up. In the fictional world, Pierre’s 4 weeks in jail were like a spiritual renaissance and all the things that depressed him in the past seemed so small. He opted to stay in the commoner’s jail instead of officer’s and befriended the guards. However, when the order to march came, the friendship was over. He saw on their faces the steeled looks that were on the faces of the executioners. No sign of friendship was left, and Pierre was moved over to the group of officers for the march from Moscow.
February 12th, 2022
In part 14, Tolstoy explores the discrepancy between military theory and reality. In theory, a large force should beat a small force. In reality, a small group of guerrillas can decimate a regular army. Tolstoy mentioned this with some of Bolkonski’s speeches. There is some unknown factor, some spirit and quality of the individuals fighting, that determines the outcome more than size alone. The story brings us to a guerrilla band led by Denisov. They are staking out a French camp with Russian prisoners and wondering if they should attack. They refuse to work with the regular army because they don’t want to lose the loot. Denisov plans to work with a second group led by Dolokhov. One of the refused generals sends a messenger, who turns out to be Petya Rostov. Against orders, he asks to tag along with Denisov. He is 16 and brimming with energy, looking for action. When Dolokhov arrives, he dons a French uniform to infiltrate the camp for information. Petya takes the 2nd uniform and goes along, against Denisov’s wishes. They make it through, Dolokhov has clearly done this before. He tells Petya to tell Denisov that they will attack at dawn. The next morning they charge into battle and Denisov tells Petya to stay by his side. Too excited, Petya dashes forward and doesn’t stop. He goes into the camp and is shot in the head, dying instantly. Denisov is crushed, Dolokhov indifferent. One of the prisoners liberated is Pierre. His group had lost a couple hundred men, as they died off or were shot for lagging behind. Platon, the man who was Pierre’s friend, had been feverish. Pierre avoided him because of this, though it seems like a strange and cruel reaction. One day Pierre see’s Platon sitting by a tree with a longing look on his face. Pierre turns away and hears a gun shot. It is evident Platon was killed by the French, though nobody wanted to acknowledge it.
February 14th, 2022
I forgot to write yesterday, but I read part 15, the final part before the epilogues. Natasha and Mary are mourning the death of Prince Andrew, but try not to talk or think about him. They go on in a haze. Mary is soon brought back to the reality of having to raise her nephew and repair their estates. Mary’s planned departure depresses Natasha more, as they are the only ones who understand each other. At this time the family gets the tragic news of Petya’s death. The count and countess are a wreck, with the countess on the verge of a breakdown. Only Natasha is able to console her mother in the coming days, and this brings life back to her. Mary stayed with the Rostovs a little longer while they grieved. Natasha is exhausted during all this time and starts to waste away. When Mary and her people left for Moscow, Natasha joined them to see a doctor. A good portion of this section talks about Kutuzov, his recognition as a hero and abandonment as the Tsar intends to continue the war into Europe, and Kutuzov’s death. The last third of the section follows the new life of Pierre. He has become a more positive person and more care-free. He is able to make decisions without freezing form real connections with people. In Moscow he goes to see Mary and does not recognize Natasha. Once he learns it is her, his old love is immediately rekindled and he cannot get her out of his mind. It seems she starts to care for him too. Pierre spends much time there and eventually confesses to Mary that he must marry her. Mary works the situation out between the two, and though she is saddened to see Natasha move on so quickly, she sees that Natasha feels some guilt over the situation and feels reassured in her friend. I think they will get married, probably along side Nicholas and Mary.
The First Epilogue discusses the conservative reaction after Napoleon, Alexander’s drop of liberal reforms, and Alexander’s plans such as the Christian League or whatever it was called. Tolstoy then discusses the role of chance in history and how what people call genius is just relative to the outcomes of chance. Then he talks about all the chances that led
to Napoleon’s rise to power and his 100 Days. The epilogue tells us what happened to the main characters between 1813 and 1820. Natasha and Piere were married and the old Count died shortly after. Nicholas inherited what was left and all the debts. He retired from the army and worked in the civil service, trying to pay off his debts and care for his mother and Sonya. After being cold to Princess Mary, they reconciled and were married. With Mary’s wealth, Nicholas was able to get rid of the debts and became a stern landowner. He was passionate about farming and the field peasants came to respect him as a wise and fair master. They had several children, as did Natasha and Pierre. We rejoin them, along with Denisov and nephew Nicholas, at Bald Hill in 1820 for a St. Nicholas celebration. Pierre is absent on business in Petersburg and Natasha is in a poor mood because he is late. It seems she found her calling as a family woman, but disappointing to me, let her appearance go. Pierre arrives with gifts and they discuss modern events and the state of the government, which Pierre sees as going downhill quickly and Nicholas disagrees with him strongly. Nephew Nicholas looks up to Pierre almost like a father and is enthralled by his words. I assume we will leave the characters in this happy state and the Second Epilogue will be something completely different.
February 19th, 2022
Read the Second Epilogue and finished the book. This section is more of Tolstoy's philosophical ideas on history and not a narrative. He asks the questions: What is power? What is the force behind the movement of people and nations? In ancient times, it was believed that either a deity controlled fate directly or chose a king/leader who's actions were sanctioned by the gods. This simple belief does not is not approved of by modern man. Tolstoy claims this idea is thrown out only to swap god for a king or powerful man, whose commands are followed. Why? Why should a million men march across Europe to Moscow because one man said so? Because one man has power. What is power? The will of the people, so claim historians. I personally think that the “people” neither care about nor are relevant to those in power. It is a pyramid, a hierarchy, will the lower levels following the orders of the higher and smaller orders. If the highest level changes, it will not be felt directly by the lowest unless it leads to consequences such as war. The in-between levels will obey who signs their paycheck. Does the Russian factory worker care if there is a tsar, a secretary, or a president? Back to Tolstoy. He recognizes the will of the people and the transfer between leaders as garbage. He also claims that “power” as we call it does not exist. It is named so after the fact. The effect is something happens, but is the cause that one man said it should happen? And what of the thousands of things that this one man commands to be done that are not and cannot be done? Napoleon spent years commanding an invasion of England, which did not occur because it could not. The many small events are combined by historians into one large event which seems preordained. Napoleon orders troops into Vienna, into Prussia, into Poland, and it becomes as one long initial command to invade Russia. And this ignores the commands that were not executed because they are not remembered or considered significant. The ladder of which commands travel down to the bottom, e.g. a soldier, is power. It is a relationship and relative. As the order travels down the ladder, more actions are performed. The top of the pyramid only orders, the bottom only acts, and in-between the relationship varies inversely. Thus, Tolstoy states, power is this relationship and the force behind the movements are the activity of all people involved. Then Tolstoy discusses free will vs man's subjugation to laws of nature. A man, because he is conscience where as a rock subject to gravity is not, thinks he is making choices of his own free will and not as a reaction of some agent. This is another inverse relationship. The more freedom in a choice, the less inevitability is involved and vice versa. A drowning man who survives by accidentally drowning another man is not guilty of murder, he had very little freedom in the matter. A man who kills a man to steal his wallet is much more guilty, even though this may not have been a choice of pure freedom. Maybe his family is starving to death? You would still be unlikely to find a jury who would consider him innocent. It is also difficult to look back to the past and consider a choice to be free. The farther ago in time it occurred, the more consequences have become cemented in our timeline and it is hard to imagine any other way. Tolstoy claims that acknowledging these facts and changing the study of history would not destroy the field. Copernicus did not destroy astronomy nor religion by removing the Earth from the center of the universe. Tolstoy ends by saying “it is similarly necessary to renounce a freedom that does not exist, and to recognize a dependence of which we are not conscious”.