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War and Peace > Book 1A--Petersburg

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message 1: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Book 1A, St. Petersburg, July 1805 (chapters I-IX here http://www.online-literature.com/tols... )

Scene 1: Anna Scherer's soirée (chapters 1-6 Maude, P/V; 1-5 Garnett

Characters

Anna Pavlovna Scherer, Maid of Honor to the Dowager Empress Marya Fëdorovna >What do you think of her abilities as a hostess?

Prince Vassily Kuragin, an elderly nobleman >What seems to motivate him?

Princess Ellen Kuragin, his daughter, "the beautiful Ellen (or Helen)" >Beyond beautiful, what is she?

Princess Elisabeth (Lise) Bolkonsky, Prince Andrey's wife, "the most fascinating woman in Petersburg" >What is your impression of the little princess at this point?

Prince Ippolit Kuragin, Prince Vassily's weak-minded elder son >Is this guy for real?

Pierre Bezuhov, Count Kirill Bezuhov's son >What impression does he give at the soirée?

Prince Andrey Bolkonsky, Prince Nikolay Bolkonsky's son, one of the major characters in the novel. He is scion of a wealthy landowning family noted for its military achievements >What do you think of him so far?

Princess Anna Mihalovna Drubetskoy, an elderly lady of a good but impoverished family >What is her one goal in life?

>If you feel a bit dazed at the party, having a hard time remembering everyone's name, just remember that it's that way in life, too. We'll meet the important people again and again and get to know more about them, even to the point of remembering their names most of the time.

Wikipedia: "The Treaty of Saint Petersburg was signed on April 11 1805 by the British Empire and the Russian Empire and created an offensive alliance directed against Napoleon's French Empire." >Can anyone fill us in on any of the political/military references made at the soirée?

Petersburg was created by Peter the Great just 100 years before Anna Scherer's party and proclaimed the capital city in 1712. It became the cultural center of Russia, housing the Hermitage, and it looked to Europe for its fashions, language, and culture. It is so far north that it barely gets dark at night during the summer. "It was past one o'clock when Pierre left his friend. It was a cloudless, northern, summer night. Pierre took an open cab intending to drive straight home. But the nearer he drew to the house the more he felt the impossibility of going to sleep on such a night. It was light enough to see a long way in the deserted street and it seemed more like morning or evening than night." (Beginning of chapter 9)

Scene 2: Prince Andrey's Petersburg house (chapters VIII-VIII)

>Now we hone in on Pierre, Andrey, and the little Princess Lise. What important things do we learn about each?

Scene 3: The party at Anatole's house, St. Petersburg (chapter IX)

Two new characters:

Prince Anatole Kuragin, Prince Vassily's profligate younger son

Dolohov, an officer of the Semënov Regiment who lives with Anatole >Keep an eye on these two

>What do you think of Pierre's moral reasoning as he decides whether to go to Anatole's or not? How is his character further revealed at the party?
>We'll have to go to Moscow to find out what happened to the young revelers once they left Anatole's house with the bear.


message 2: by Libyrinths (new)

Libyrinths | 6 comments Patrice said: Hmmm, another beautiful Helen?

My thoughts exactly, Patrice.

Laurele asks: Anna Pavlovna Scherer, Maid of Honor to the Dowager Empress Marya Fëdorovna >What do you think of her abilities as a hostess?


She seemed to be quite adept at something which obviously called for acute observation and careful and tactful manipulation of people. I found myself being grateful that things are so much more informal today, and that so long as everyone seems to be talking to someone and no one is breaking into fisticuffs, a hostess doesn't need to have the finely honed skills which a member of the aristocracy had to have in those days.


message 3: by Lily (last edited Aug 21, 2013 11:47AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Does Tolstoy give Anna Pavlovna Sherer a reason for throwing this soiree, other than to serve as a marvelous venue for introducing so many of his characters? I wondered if she has a mission to seek out reactions to the movements of Napoleon for the Dowager Empress. Or is she simply acting to introduce the two foreign guests to Petersburg society. Or perhaps one reason was to have a chance to assess this Pierre fellow about whom rumors must certainly have already been flying. Or had Anna Mihalovna Drubetskoy enlisted her aid, since the princess had apparently specifically come to Petersburg for the fete.

Not sure this is a spoiler, but in case someone might think so, some calculations: (view spoiler)


message 4: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4509 comments What is the French connection? The book starts in French, and the characters are as comfortable in French as they are in Russian. Is this a status thing, the mark of aristocracy?


message 5: by Kyle (new)

Kyle | 99 comments I LOVED the paragraph at the beginning of chapter two, narrating the "totally unknown, totally uninteresting and unnecessary" aunt. Didn't think I'd laugh out loud during this novel, but this perfect description of the pleasantries of social gatherings made my day.


message 6: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Kyle wrote: "Didn't think I'd laugh out loud during this novel, but this perfect description of the pleasantries of social gatherings made my day..."

You'll get many more chances for a hearty laugh or at least a bemused smile, Kyle. Enjoy! (As Nabokov says, Tolstoy creates characters that many [Russians] come to consider as well-known as members of their own family.)


message 7: by Lily (last edited Aug 21, 2013 01:24PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Thomas wrote: "What is the French connection? The book starts in French, and the characters are as comfortable in French as they are in Russian. Is this a status thing, the mark of aristocracy?"

One way to consider French in Tolstoy's novels is as a protest -- like Levin in Anna Karenina, Tolstoy seemed to consider French somewhat an affectation of the Russian aristocracy. It is fun to notice how Tolstoy often seems to poke fun at its usage, especially by foreigners who adopt it or servants who may or may not understand it. But he also understood its widespread use, especially in Petersburg and Moscow.

I don't spot the results of this research project, but it sounds like it would shed more light on your question:
http://www.bristol.ac.uk/arts/researc...

http://www.answers.com/topic/french-i... -- a succinct commentary, an excerpt w/i spoiler to contain the length of this post: (view spoiler)


message 8: by Lily (last edited Aug 21, 2013 02:22PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Patrice wrote: "...Struggling to translate the French, I found myself very annoyed. After all, the entire thing is a translation, why should the French remain in French?..."

We are spoiled Americans, aren't we? [g] (I won't deny, Maude is faster to read than P&V. But one loses some of the effect Tolstoy seemed to be deliberately creating, although I'm not quite certain any mode could be totally successful.)


message 9: by Wendel (new)

Wendel (wendelman) | 609 comments The better-off employed French nannies and tutors, so for some Russian aristocrats French was the first language, while their Russian might be defective. On the other hand, Tolstoy will come up with characters expressing themselves in broken French: betraying through their affectation a less than perfect education!

Tolstoy does not approve the use of the enemy language. But sometimes there were perfectly good reasons to choose French: on a gathering with foreign guests for instance. And so many officers of the Russian army were non-Russians (like those of Baltic German origin) that it made good sense to use French in higher army echelons.

I guess that the first (pre-1917?) Russian editions did not offer translations of the French parts. Some knowledge of the language was probably still taken for granted. As in my 1966 Dutch edition (today there certainly would be notes with translations). Editions dropping the French entirely are IMHO mistaken.


message 10: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments This is one on the "Peace" parts of War and Peace. How peaceful is it?


message 11: by Libyrinths (new)

Libyrinths | 6 comments I haven't read the book previously, so I don't know if this will be a factor, but aside from the excellent reflections on the use of French by the aristocracy noted above, I wondered how this Francophile orientation will play out later in these characters' lives the war becomes serious?

One thing which struck me in their discussion about Napoleon at Anna's soiree was that their objection to Napoleon centered on his immoral acts -- killing those prisoners whom he'd promised not to, killing that Duc. It wasn't that he was threatening their own country, but that he was a nogoodnik. If he hadn't done those things, would they have been okay with his taking over Russia?


message 12: by Lily (last edited Aug 21, 2013 07:26PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Patrice wrote: "Lily wrote: "Patrice wrote: "...Struggling to translate the French, I found myself very annoyed. After all, the entire thing is a translation, why should the French remain in French?..."

We are sp..."


I used to give computer system demonstrations to foreign visitors. I frequently marveled at their bi-lingual skills and felt provincial for my own lack. I've not a facility for other languages, although I once studied Latin (barely) and German (passed requirements). I just happen to agree with Wendel @11 about the value of sustaining the awareness of the French in W&P.


message 13: by Lily (last edited Aug 21, 2013 07:39PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Libyrinths wrote: "...I wondered how this Francophile orientation will play out later in these characters' lives as the war becomes serious..."

Liby (hope the contraction is okay with you) -- That French influence is something I, too, would like to observe more closely if I do manage to stay the course with this thing again. Also, the Austria-Russia alliances or lack thereof. (So far, the rereading is a real pleasure, but this is a long novel.) What I found particularly interesting about the article above were the references to the influence of French Enlightenment writers on Russian political thought. Not certain in what ways those held up.


message 14: by Lily (last edited Aug 21, 2013 07:50PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Laurele wrote: "This is one on the "Peace" parts of War and Peace. How peaceful is it?"

The "wars" seem to be domestic, with a background of a nation preparing for military engagement. ("Struggles" is probably more apt than "wars" here.)


message 15: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Laurele wrote: "Anna Pavlovna Scherer, Maid of Honor to the Dowager Empress Marya Fëdorovna >What do you think of her abilities as a hostess?"

Awesome. I have noticed that in some English Victorian era literature also, that the skilled hostess of a soiree or "at home" or garden party used to take great care of the guest list, the seating arrangements at dinner, the groupings, making sure that everybody has somebody to talk with, that nobody is left out, etc. These are skills that are much less valued today. Sadly, IMO.


message 16: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Lily wrote: "Does Tolstoy give Anna Pavlovna Sherer a reason for throwing this soiree, other than to serve as a marvelous venue for introducing so many of his characters? "

I didn't see a reason explicitly, though it certainly serves very well as an introduction to the characters, but in that era, at least in England and France I know and presumably also in Russia, the soiree or salon or at home was a fairly common evening entertainment among the upper classes who, of course, didn't have TV or radio or other similar entertainments that we have today, so that society and gossip were primary entertainments, along with the opera and concert halls. So I didn't think it was anything unusual, or that she needed any particular reason for an evening with a group of invited friends.

I did find two things interesting. One was that all these people were available on such short notice -- she had only sent out the invitations that morning. The second was that she would decide to throw a party of this size and while she was under the weather: "Anna Pavlovna had had a cough for some days. She was, as she said, suffering from la grippe; grippe being then a new word in St. Petersburg, used only by the elite." Why would one give a party while suffering from a cough or the grippe? Those two points were of more interest to me than the reason for giving the soiree.


message 17: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Thomas wrote: "What is the French connection? The book starts in French, and the characters are as comfortable in French as they are in Russian. Is this a status thing, the mark of aristocracy?"

I understand, yes, that the aristocracy tended to use French widely because it was classier than Russian. Sort of the way Greek and Latin were used for many centuries by the literary people, and the languages of the people weren't widely used -- Dante was unusual in writing in Italian, and Milton wrote alternately in Latin and English.


message 18: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4509 comments Everyman wrote: "Awesome. I have noticed that in some English Victorian era literature also, that the skilled hostess of a soiree or "at home" or garden party used to take great care of the guest list, the seating arrangements at dinner, the groupings, making sure that everybody has somebody to talk with, that nobody is left out, etc.."

I love the spinning wheel analogy -- not only does Anna Pavlovna watch out for idle spindles, but she fixes the ones that squeal too loudly. She fixes the "conversation machine" just so, and with one word can start the conversation going or quiet it down if it has become too talkative.

Tolstoy has a similar ability -- with one word (or a sentence or two) he sums up a character. His descriptions are remarkably efficient, and immediate. The first we hear of Pierre, we learn right off the bat that he is A. Fat, B. Illegitimate, and C. That his father is dying. That makes a pretty solid first impression.


message 19: by Johanna (new)

Johanna | 3 comments This is my first time reading W&P and I am still trying to keep a track of all the characters. One thing that intrigues me,however, is why does Anna Mikhaylovna feel the need to accompany Pierre to his father's deathbed?
Does she expect to get something out of it? Or what is her motive? And is she related to Pierre in some way?


message 20: by Johanna (new)

Johanna | 3 comments Thomas wrote: "What is the French connection? The book starts in French, and the characters are as comfortable in French as they are in Russian. Is this a status thing, the mark of aristocracy?"

Not that this has anything to do with the novel.. but in Sweden during the 18th century the Swedish aristocracy spoke French among themselves and they often switched between French and Swedish just like they do in this novel so this is not something that only occurred in Russia.


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

I think it is important to remember that the events we are reading about take place only 16 years after the French Revolution, and are even closer to the Reign of Terror and the execution of the King of France.

During the late 18th century German born Catherine the Great had made a concerted effort to make Russia more "European." (The importance of St. Petersburg and the development of the Hermitage are two examples.) However, she was largely thwarted by the upper classes who benefited greatly from the serf system.

This same "split-personality" is evident even today. Putin is exploiting it to build his own power base. On one hand he applies to join NATO. On the other, he plays on Russian xenophobia.

I think it could be argued that "Mother Russia" is the main character in this book. As it opens the aristocrats at the soiree are very much on edge as their way of life appears threatened by the destabilizing results of the French revolution.

In that context, I wonder what others think of Pierre's outburst at the soiree (page 19 of Maude) where he praises Napoleon as a force for stability?


message 22: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth (ElizabethHammond) | 233 comments Laurele, I am so impressed and grateful for your opening questions. I can't imagine the amount of time and research and thought you put into them. Thank you.


message 23: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth (ElizabethHammond) | 233 comments Laurele wrote: "Book 1A, St. Petersburg, July 1805 (chapters I-IX here http://www.online-literature.com/tols... )

Scene 1: Anna Scherer's soirée (chapters 1-6 Maude, P/V; 1-5 Garnett

Characters

Anna Pavlovna Scherer, Maid of Honor to the Dowager Empress Marya Fëdorovna >What do you think of her abilities as a hostess?..."


I would imagine that in 1805 Russia having the ability to act as a "hostess" was an invaluable quality. The term "hostess" doesn't really do justice to her role as one since she steers people to the "right" conversations, she provides very important information to certain questions, she disciplines and teaches others. It appears the these sort of meetings, while having the appearance of being social could be better described as places where marriages are arranged, positions and careers are secured, appointments are made, connections are strengthened, information is exchanged, favors are sought and granted, and the youth can be disciplined and corrected by their "betters". These type of meetings would have been invaluable in that society.

The meeting, arranged on such short notice, must have been viewed as valuable to the attendees. We could probably benefit greatly from the demonstration of how to 'network', but Anna Pavlovna's behavior probably wouldn't be well accepted today.


message 24: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth (ElizabethHammond) | 233 comments The French question. I read somewhere in the last couple of days that Catherine the Great required that her couriers speak French at court. I'm sorry I can't find the source - I just checked Wikipedia plus some links from another discussion thread thinking I could find it, but I can't.


message 25: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Thank you, Elizabeth. I guess we could call what Anna Scherer is doing 'networking,' couldn't we?


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

Laurele: I guess we could call what Anna Scherer is doing 'networking,' couldn't we?

And what could we call Anna Mikhaylovna's machinations?


message 27: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Zeke wrote: "Laurele: I guess we could call what Anna Scherer is doing 'networking,' couldn't we?

And what could we call Anna Mikhaylovna's machinations?"


Politicking? Guilt-tripping? Self-preservation?


message 28: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4509 comments Lily wrote: "Zeke wrote: "Laurele: I guess we could call what Anna Scherer is doing 'networking,' couldn't we?

And what could we call Anna Mikhaylovna's machinations?"

Politicking? Guilt-tripping? Self-pres..."


Gold digging?


message 29: by Wendel (new)

Wendel (wendelman) | 609 comments Patrice wrote @27: "Imagine not being proficient in your native language? I tend to think of language and culture as one. The language you speak seems to be a big part of our identity. Language determines how we think. ."

If you are not proficient, it probably is not your native language. But seriously, language is just one of the factors influencing our thinking. There are others: education, religion, class, gender. Most Russian aristocrats spoke perfect Russian, but what did they have in common with their peasants? And as a European I feel limited by the idea that we are defined by language (alas, I seem to be in a minority). Anyway, I'm sure Lev Nikolaevich will have something more to say on this subject, let's wait and see.


message 30: by Wendel (last edited Aug 22, 2013 03:20PM) (new)

Wendel (wendelman) | 609 comments Patrice wrote @30: "I think Pierre (who should be called Pyotr) thinks he's French. He was educated in Paris. The French adored Napoleon. Still do!"

Pierre is a naive idealist. His name indicates that he will not, in his quest for Truth, be limited by any frontier. Russian or French. At the moment he is not happy with the coming war against the Great Man because he cannot believe that the fate of Lucca is a sufficient casus belli for Russia. Nor does prince Andrej, but he is a more practical and above all military man. He goes where duty calls.

It's true that some still adore the French dictator - I found this gem on the Internet, Napoleon's very own website: http://www.napoleonicsociety.com/engl...


message 31: by Elizabeth (last edited Aug 22, 2013 03:05PM) (new)

Elizabeth (ElizabethHammond) | 233 comments Lily wrote: "Zeke wrote: "Laurele: I guess we could call what Anna Scherer is doing 'networking,' couldn't we?

And what could we call Anna Mikhaylovna's machinations?"

Politicking? Guilt-tripping? Self-pres..."


As yet, I don't see her plotting with evil intent. Did I miss something? Do you see this social gathering as a way of life for the Russian elites at that time or is something else going on?


message 32: by Wendel (last edited Aug 22, 2013 04:30PM) (new)

Wendel (wendelman) | 609 comments Laurele wrote @1: Can anyone fill us in on any of the political/military references made at the soirée?

It is summer 1805, war is in the air. Tsar Alexander has signed a pact with Britain, soon Russian troops will be on the move to support that other ally, Austria. The developing conflict was later known as the War of the Third Coalition. Renamed the Fourth Coalition in 1806 (after Austria was replaced by Prussia). For Russia it would end with the Peace of Tilsit, July 1807.

Though Napoleon did not yet directly threaten Russian interests in 1805, Alexander was fed up with the emperors high-handed ways. The remarks about Genoa and Lucca in the opening scene refer to examples of French insolence (Italian speaking Genoa had been added to the empire, Lucca was presented to Napoleons sister Elise). The population had of course to be thankful for the French benevolence (and the inescapable rise in taxes).

The Emerson Kent site is attractive and concise:
*http://www.emersonkent.com/wars_and_b...
*http://www.emersonkent.com/wars_and_b...

The Wikipedia lemmas on the Third and Fourth Coalitions suffer from the usual problems of the longer Wiki entries (badly written, lack of structure, no or low conceptual level, freak views, disturbing info boxes):
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_t...
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_t...

Both Wikipedia and Emerson Kent offer many historical maps, we should select some as we go. Starting with a good overview (NB: this is the situaton of 1807, after the formation of the Rhine Confederation and the Grand Duchy of Warsaw - a good map for 1805 would be welcome): http://images.classwell.com/mcd_xhtml...


message 33: by Wendel (last edited Aug 22, 2013 04:42PM) (new)

Wendel (wendelman) | 609 comments Patrice wrote: "... my view, as an English speaker, has always been that Napolean was a megalomaniac monster ie the British view ..."

It is not only the British view! My personal favourite of the period is Germaine Necker (Madame de Staël) - which goes to show that not all of France was (is) mesmerised by the little dictator.

http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/stael.htm


message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

I agree with the thrust of Wendel's post @39. However, he says, Pierre is a naive idealist. His name indicates that he will not, in his quest for Truth, be limited by any frontier.

Again, I agree he is a naive idealist. But I don't get how his name reflects this. I always thought Pierre (Peter) meant rock (as in the Bible).


message 35: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Zeke wrote: "I agree with the thrust of Wendel's post @39. However, he says, Pierre is a naive idealist. His name indicates that he will not, in his quest for Truth, be limited by any frontier.

Again, I agree..."


I think Wendelman means the fact that he's Pierre, not Petr.


message 36: by tysephine (new)

tysephine Thomas wrote: "Lily wrote: "Zeke wrote: "Laurele: I guess we could call what Anna Scherer is doing 'networking,' couldn't we?

And what could we call Anna Mikhaylovna's machinations?"...

Gold-digging?


Haha yeah she was out to get her some money, wasn't she? But wasn't she also trying to get her son well-placed in the army? I seem to remember her trying to flirt her son into a good position.

Now THAT is a mother's love!


message 37: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Elizabeth wrote: "Lily wrote: "Zeke wrote: "Laurele: I guess we could call what Anna Scherer is doing 'networking,' couldn't we? And what could we call Anna Mikhaylovna's machinations?"

Politicking? Guilt-tripping?..."


As yet, I don't see her plotting with evil intent.

Elizabeth -- I don't know that I would apply "evil" to the machinations of the Princess. But "machinations," yes! I like Thomas's suggestion of "gold-digging" -- a self-interest charity case with a persistent fund raiser.

The protection of Pierre and his interests is rather interesting. I don't recall whether we ever learn the reasons, (view spoiler) (Not a spoiler if you have read part B.)


message 38: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth (ElizabethHammond) | 233 comments Lily wrote: "Elizabeth wrote: "Lily wrote: "Zeke wrote: "Laurele: I guess we could call what Anna Scherer is doing 'networking,' couldn't we? And what could we call Anna Mikhaylovna's machinations?"

Politickin..."


Oops! I just realized that Lily's comment regarding machinations refers to Anna Mikhaylovna, not Anna Pavlovna! I agree with Lily, I don't think Anna Mikhaylovna has "evil" intentions, rather she is trying to use her family connections, though less influential than they once were, to benefit her son. I'm convinced that exactly the same strategy is employed today, especially by the rich and well connected to get their sons and daughters placed in positions that they may not be able to acquire on their own, or at least not as quickly.


message 39: by Lily (last edited Aug 23, 2013 01:15PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Elizabeth wrote: "Oops! I just realized that Lily's comment regarding machinations refers to Anna Mikhaylovna, not Anna Pavlovna!..."

Elizabeth -- check out Zeke @35. It's probably a matter of "makes no difference," but I believe this discussion started there. I think both Thomas and I were responding to Zeke's characterization of Anna Mihalovna Drubetskoy -- or however we should spell her name -- when he referred to her "machinations".

Another blogger compared this to his efforts to help his son get into the school they wanted for him. To me, Princess A.M.D. pushes the envelope by the time 1B is over.


message 40: by Lily (last edited Aug 23, 2013 01:17PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Patrice wrote: "Aren't Russian names fun? ;-)"

[g] That Slavic alphabet?


message 41: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Everyman wrote: "I did find two things interesting. One was that all these people were available on such short notice -- she had only sent out the invitations that morning. The second was that she would decide to throw a party of this size and while she was under the weather: "Anna Pavlovna had had a cough for some days. She was, as she said, suffering from la grippe; grippe being then a new word in St. Petersburg, used only by the elite." Why would one give a party while suffering from a cough or the grippe?"

I think Anna's party was just something these people could work in to the other entertainments of the evening. It was just a drop-in, so they did not need to spend a lot of time there if they had other things to do. No TV tonight, so let's see what Anna has to entertain us. She had been sick with la grippe, but she was better now and was celebrating that. Does anyone remember--was any food or drink offered at the soirée, or was it just interesting people to talk with?


message 42: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Libyrinths wrote: "One thing which struck me in their discussion about Napoleon at Anna's soiree was that their objection to Napoleon centered on his immoral acts -- killing those prisoners whom he'd promised not to, killing that Duc. It wasn't that he was threatening their own country, but that he was a nogoodnik. If he hadn't done those things, would they have been okay with his taking over Russia?"

This is a good question. What do others think? Would some of these people, at this point, be proud to be a part of the Great Napoleonic Empire? They are in Petersburg, Russia's Window on the West, and this would certainly make them a part of Europe.


message 43: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Patrice wrote: "Have you ever been to the Invalides in Paris? I could not believe that monument was there to honor Napolean. My husband still idolizes the man. He will never admit that he was anything but a great man."

I almost had my fingers broken at l'Invalides. All I did was ask the person at the ticket window if the price was only to see the tomb of l'Empereur. In Rome I discovered that the Italians (tour guides, at least) look back with fondness on Mussolini.


message 44: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Thomas wrote: "The first we hear of Pierre, we learn right off the bat that he is A. Fat, B. Illegitimate, and C. That his father is dying. That makes a pretty solid first impression. "

The impression was cemented for me at the beginning of Chapter 6, "Pierre was ungainly. Stout, about the average height, broad, with huge red hands; he did not know, as the saying is, to enter a drawing room and still less how to leave one; that is, how to say something particularly agreeable before going away. Besides this he was absent-minded. When he rose to go, he took up instead of his own, the general's three-cornered hat, and held it, pulling at the plume, till the general asked him to restore it. "

The next sentence didn't help me, at least, get over this description of him. "All his absent-mindedness and inability to enter a room and converse in it was, however, redeemed by his kindly, simple, and modest expression." Kindly, simple, and modest wouldn't, at least in my view, have made much impression in the St. Petersburg society we've been introduced to, on the brink of war.


message 45: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Laurele wrote: "Thank you, Elizabeth. I guess we could call what Anna Scherer is doing 'networking,' couldn't we?"

The 1805 equivalent of social media?


message 46: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Elizabeth wrote: "I agree with Lily, I don't think Anna Mikhaylovna has "evil" intentions, rather she is trying to use her family connections, though less influential than they once were, to benefit her son. I'm convinced that exactly the same strategy is employed today, especially by the rich and well connected to get their sons and daughters placed in positions that they may not be able to acquire on their own, or at least not as quickly. "

Absolutely. Why else would families like the Kennedys, Bushes, and now Clintons become so dominant? How many of the people in high government office today would have gotten there if they had not had any parental assistance? Some, but not many. (A recent article on the White House Interns pointed out that, since these are unpaid positions, only those young people with money or parents who can afford to support them can take these positions, which are important stepping stones to government office.) And without parental influence, would Kim Jong-il be the leader of anything?

She is just doing exactly what parents throughout history have done, and still do today.


message 47: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Patrice wrote: "Aren't Russian names fun? ;-)"

No.


message 48: by Wendel (last edited Aug 23, 2013 10:54PM) (new)

Wendel (wendelman) | 609 comments Patrice wrote @45: "Wendel wrote: "Patrice wrote: "... my view, as an English speaker, has always been that Napolean was a megalomaniac monster ie the British view ..." It is not only the British view!"

Yes, I visited her chateau in Coppet. But she was born in Paris and felt exiled whenever she had to stay at Coppet. Actually, coming from a Protestant family meant more than being Swiss.

What the Dutch think of Napoleon? From elementary school I remember: high taxes, theft of national treasures, destruction of commerce*. Oh, and the Code Napoléon, that was useful. Btw, in 1948 the Dutch historian Geyl published a book on the Napoleon debate in 19th century France. Well written, still interesting:
http://www.napoleon-series.org/review...

* and conscription - I'll never forget the horrors of crossing the river Berezina on the way back from Moscow ..


message 49: by Wendel (new)

Wendel (wendelman) | 609 comments Patrice wrote@59 "wouldn't it have been a great improvement if Napolean had won? Not for the aristocrats but for the nation as a whole? ..."

Hm, bringing democracy to Russia?


message 50: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments I was interested in several of the cultural glimpses of Russian society that Tolstoy offered in this section.

For one example, the wager with Dolokhov. I don't know whether Tolstoy based this on an actual example, but for reasons I can't explain it seems a very Russian, or at least Germanic/Russian sort of activity. I wouldn't expect an author of a novel set in England or France or Italy or America to try to pass off a scene like this and expect readers to accept is as a normal part of the social life of these young men. But for some reason I buy it.

Second is the Name day celebration. Interesting that they celebrate the name day apparently much more seriously than the birth day. I'm not sure whether this is more religious or social, but I had never heard of Name day celebrations on this scale before I read W&P.

I admit that Russia is largely an enigma to me, having been raised in the 50s and 60s during the heart of the Cold War when anyone who would talk favorably, or even neutrally, about Russia was highly suspect (this was the era of McCarthy, after all). So much of the cultural atmosphere of the novel is strange to me.

I have never really tried to overcome this ignorance by a systematic study of Russian culture -- I wonder how many of those here who were also raised during those years have.


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