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War and Peace > Book 1C--Bald Hills

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message 1: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments "At Bald Hills, Prince Nicholas Andreevich Bolkonski's estate, the arrival of young Prince Andrew and his wife was daily expected, but this expectation did not upset the regular routine of life in the old prince's household."

There's quite a change in tone from the fashionable Petersburg soiree to the festive and solemn gatherings at the homes of Moscow's wealthy to this quiet country estate where order reigns to the tune of a metronome and family love has some dubitable expressions. Notice how deftly Tolstoy ties Book 1 together in these four chapters.

At the soirée, for instance, we witnessed the plan of Anna Scherer and Prince Vasily to mate Vasily's son Anatole with Marya Bolkonski. Now we meet Marya and witness her reading a letter from Julie Karagina informing Marya of the intended match.

We met Julie at the Rostovs' house in Moscow flirting with Nikolay. From what you witnessed there, how true does her description of her parting from Nikolay ring? Can anyone explain why the old prince calls Julie Marya's Eloise?

How do you like the old prince's teaching techniques? His parting word to Andrey? Andrey's parting request? This is definitely an unusual family. Or is it so unusual?


message 2: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Now that you have met most of the major characters of the book, you might remember them better if you view them as families:

A. Bezuhov (Bezukhov)

Count Kirill (Cyril) Vladmirovitch Bezuhov
An old man, once a grandee in Catherine’s court, who dies early in the novel.

Pierre Bezuhov (Pyotr, Petya, Petrushka, Count Bezuhov)
The hero of the novel and the old count’s illegitimate son, whose spiritual development is perhaps the best expression of Tolstoy’s philosophy.


B. Bolkonsky

Prince Nikolay Andrei[vi]tch Bolkonsky
Scion of an ancient and honorable family, now an old man, who clings more and more to the values of an outdated feudal society.

Prince Andrey Bolkonsky (Andre, Andrew, Andrushka)
His son and heir, who is an intensely intellectual, basically egotistical young man who seeks to exchange his sense of alienation for a sense of being at one with the world. His quest affirms his nihilism.

Princess Marya Bolkonskaya (Mary, Masha, Mashenka, Marie)
Prince Andrey's sister, who lives at Bald Hills with their father. A plain young woman who sustains her lonely life by a strong Christian piety.

Mademoiselle Bourienne
Marya’s companion, an orphaned Frenchwoman of a frivolous and opportunistic nature.

Princess Liza Bolkonskaya (Lisa; the little princess)
Andrey’s pregnant wife, a silly, chattering, beautiful society girl who never grows up.


C. Rostov

Count Ilya Rostov (Elie)
A gregarious, good-natured, and generous family man whose interest in maintaining his family’s pleasures contributes to his financial ruination.

Countess Natalya Rostova (Natalie)
His wife, a typical Russian noblewoman, whose main interests center within the family. She is forty-five years old when we first meet her, and she is worn out from having borne twelve children.

Natasha Rostova (Natasha is a diminuative for Natalya)
The heroine of the novel and a bewitching young girl whom Tolstoy regards as the creature-manifestation of love, nature, and femininity. Natasha is thirteen years old when we first meet her on St. Natalya's Day, which is the name-day of both her and her mother.

Nikolay Rostov (Nikolai, Nicholas, Kolya, Nikolinka, Nikolushka, Nicolas, Coco)
Natasha's older brother, who is an officer in the hussars (light cavalry regiment). We will through him experience what it is like being in the war against Napoleon. Julie Karagina and his cousin Sonya are both interested in him.

Vera Rostov (Verushka, Verochka)
The eldest child, who is seeing Alphonse Berg, an opportunistic youth of German descent.

Petya Rostov (Petrushka, Peter)
The youngest child, whose vivacity is closest to that of Natasha.

Sonya (Sofya Alexandrovna, Sophie)
The Count's niece, whom the Rostovs raise with their own children. She is fifteen years old and in love with Nikolay when we first meet her.

Boris Drubetskoy (Borya, Borinka)
Son of a friend of Countess Rostov, the princess Anna Mikhaylovna Drubetskaya. He has been educated with the Rostov children and has promised Natasha that he will ask for her hand when she is seventeen.


message 3: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4509 comments Patrice wrote: "My professor at U of C told us that Andrey's father, the count, is modeled on Kant. I don't know that much about Kant but I assume he was very disciplined, unemotional, and rational.

She also sai..."


I like the description of the Count that I read somewhere: "Eccentric maths abuser."


message 4: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 24, 2013 05:21AM) (new)

I was rather moved by Marya's torments in this section. At first, when she was preaching to Andrei she seemed like a pretty sanctimonious, doctrinaire believer when she is giving Andrei the icon. Then we see her infatuated with Anatole and behaving like a "normal" young girl. However, she is sincerely torn by her devotion to her father. The when she thinks her friend desires Anatole she is first jealous, then supportive.

At least that is how I read it. She is very much a believable young woman. It will be interesting to see which aspect of her personality wins out and how she feels about the life it leads her to.

There is a lot in this section in which young people wrestle with their genuine, current feelings and their perception of the future implications of these feelings. I think both Andrei and Pierre go through similar thought processes.

This is very much a novel of spiritual development--and not only for Pierre.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Laurele provides a very helpful grouping of characters by family. It strikes me that this is also a novel in which there are four generations depicted, with Tolstoy showing us the different ways in which they view/experience the world.


message 6: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 22 comments Marya and Julie disagree about Pierre. Julie thinks he is "a miserable specimen of manhood," and Marya says he has "an excellent heart." It looks rather as if Julie represents the shallow view of the silly aristocracy, and Marya shows more wisdom. I, similarly to Julie, thought he behaved like an idiot at his father's deathbed, letting Anna Mihailovna push him around, but he might also be viewed as innocent of the corruption of the aristocracy around him. In the face of Princess Liza Bolkonsky's distress, he shows kindness, but is ineffectual. Shortly after that, our narrator brutally describes him as "spineless." The reference is to his bad decision to go to the Karagins' when he had promised Andrey he wouldn't.


message 7: by Selina (new)

Selina (selinatng) | 62 comments Princess Lise fainted at the end of Part I, when Prince Andrew was leaving for the war. "She screamed and fell unconscious on his shoulder." Why did she scream and why exactly did she faint? Am I to interpret that she genuinely fainted or she was pretending to fall unconscious to see if Prince Andrew cared to delay his departure for her sake ?
Would Prince Andrew had left like that if the old Prince Nicholas Bolkonski, his father, or Mary, his sister, fainted ? Or did Prince Andrew think that his wife is putting up an act, and so he left with no hesitation ?

I feel sorry for Princess Lise. She is thrown into the harsh reality of the life of a wife and an expectant mother, moved away from familiar society, and she failed to gain the compassion of everyone except Princess Mary's.


message 8: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments If Julie is a friend, why isn't she warning Marya about Anatole instead of encouraging the relationship? What is Tolstoy saying about the prevailing system of arranged marriages? As she takes on her "old maid responsibilities," I wonder if Anna Scherer knows Princess Marya at all, except by reputation and as daughter of wealthy Prince Nicholas Bolkonski.


message 9: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments In my first reading of W&P, I don't recall noticing the sexual innuendos in the hallway between Mademoiselle Bourienne and Prince Andrei, possibly hinting at some history behind his earlier expressed intense dislike of the woman upon seeing her again. Again, it is like Tolstoy that I don't think we ever know.


message 10: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Lily wrote: "In my first reading of W&P, I don't recall noticing the sexual innuendos in the hallway between Mademoiselle Bourienne and Prince Andrei, possibly hinting at some history behind his earlier express..."

I think he could just tell what sort of woman she was.


message 11: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Laurele wrote: "I think he could just tell what sort of woman she was...."

I don't recall that we had been given all that much evidence in the text at the point of Andrei's initial outburst.


message 12: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Zeke wrote: "I was rather moved by Marya's torments in this section. At first, when she was preaching to Andrei she seemed like a pretty sanctimonious, doctrinaire believer when she is giving Andrei the icon. T..."

There seems to be a parallel between the Old Prince and Marya, and Jean Valjean and Cosette. Both young women were sheltered by their fathers from sexual predators and insincere suitors, and spared the heartbreak and sufferings that would entail.

This is very much a novel of spiritual development--and not only for Pierre.

I agree.


message 13: by Lily (last edited Aug 30, 2013 01:38PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Zeke wrote: "...At first, when she was preaching to Andrei she seemed like a pretty sanctimonious, doctrinaire believer when she is giving Andrei the icon...."

Tolstoy somehow insists on showing Marya's heart, as seen via her eyes, to outshine her sanctimony. I like that in the book, unlike the movie adaptations I remember, the icon Marya asks Andrei to wear is a small oval on a fine chain. She makes it clear that she asks him to do it for her, rather than himself, which I consider a lovely nuance and statement of trust in their mutual sibling affection.


message 14: by Nemo (last edited Aug 30, 2013 06:00PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Lily wrote: "Tolstoy somehow insists on showing Marya's heart, as seen via her eyes, to outshine her sanctimony. "

Both her father and brother were proud, intelligent and scornful of religion, sanctimony didn't really fit her timid temperament. It took a lot of courage for her to speak her mind, and persuade her brother to accept the icon.

Whatever the Russian Orthodox Church taught about salvation and afterlife, she showed genuine concern for her brother. It might be his last chance. The icon was for his sake really, but she knew that his proud brother would have rejected it if she said it outright, so she resorted to sibling affection, beseeching him as if he was doing her a favor.
"Against your will He will save and have mercy on you and bring you to Himself, for in Him alone is truth and peace," said she in a voice trembling with emotion, solemnly
This passage is reminiscent of one in Les Misérables
He resumed with solemnity:--
"Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God."

ETA: I think the Russian movie faithfully captured Marya's timidity, piety and love for her brother and father.


message 15: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Beautiful, Nemo.


message 16: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Zeke wrote: "I was rather moved by Marya's torments in this section. At first, when she was preaching to Andrei she seemed like a pretty sanctimonious, doctrinaire believer when she is giving Andrei the icon. T..."

We don't know how long her father has been following this regimen, but if for most of her life, it's surprising to me that she copes as well as she does. And the adjustment to being a wife, if the marriage does come off, will be quite a challenge.


message 17: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Matthew wrote: "Marya and Julie disagree about Pierre. Julie thinks he is "a miserable specimen of manhood," and Marya says he has "an excellent heart." It looks rather as if Julie represents the shallow view of t..."

I love that they have such different views, because I, too, have some very divergent views of Pierre. So far, I haven't seen the excellent heart come through, though. There doesn't seem to be any place where he fits in -- he doesn't fit in at the soiree, at the drinking party, at his father's deathbed. He's out of place in each of these places. Will he ever find a place where he can show the excellent heart, or any other virtue that he hasn't yet shown?


message 18: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Everyman wrote: "...Will he ever find a place where he can show the excellent heart, or any other virtue that he hasn't yet shown? ..."

I am enjoying all the pieces and foreshadowing Tolstoy sets up so early about Pierre in these very first chapters, some of which will submerge for a long time, only to reappear. I particularly notice them on a second read, but I remember wondering about certain seeming "hints" even on my first read. Now I wonder how many were in his early drafts and which got inserted as Tolstoy rewrote -- and rewrote.


message 19: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Patrice wrote: "I'm working on my memory now as I have not gone over this chapter but I felt that the count was the opposite of Jean Valjean. Wasn't the count selfish, rigid and unloving? Jan Valjean was the per..."

I think Nemo is concentrating on the young ladies' responses to their father figures, rather than on the fathers. That is a good way to think, because any circumstance can make us bitter or better, depending on our own turn of heart. I do think that the old prince loved his daughter, though.


message 20: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4509 comments Laurele wrote: " I do think that the old prince loved his daughter, though. "

I agree -- though I got confused when Patrice called him the Count. ARRGH. Too many characters in this book!!

Old Prince Bolkonsky reminds me of a lot of hard men who have difficulty showing affection. On the other hand, he seems to be more intelligent and honest than many of the "softer" men we've seen so far.


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

Parents' world views are formed by worlds that are different from those that their children must navigate. They love their children but serve them poorly. This causes much unintended pain.

Again, without a lot of supporting data, I note that War and Peace has a theme of generational issues and distinctions.


message 22: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4509 comments I think I have Count Rostov and Prince Bolkonsky straight, for now. (But then, young Nikolai is also Count Rostov, and Andrei is also Prince B. And then there is Kuragin and Karagin... and somewhere Tolstoy is having himself a good chuckle. )


message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

I happen to be enjoying a rainy holiday afternoon with the Met's HD performance of Gounod's Faust. In an early scene the innocent, pure maiden Margeurite gives a medallion for protection to her brother who is leaving for war.


message 24: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Zeke wrote: "I happen to be enjoying a rainy holiday afternoon with the Met's HD performance of Gounod's Faust. In an early scene the innocent, pure maiden Margeurite gives a medallion for protection to her br..."

Oh, that's right! Lets hope Marya ends up better than poor Margeurite.


message 25: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Laurele wrote: "...Can anyone explain why the old prince calls Julie Marya's Eloise?..."

P&V's note reads: Héloïse: "The old prince is referring sarcastically to the epistolary novel Julie ou la Nouvelle Héloïse (1761) by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, which had considerable influence on the evolution of sensibilities in the later eighteenth century..."

Part One, Note 43.


message 27: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Patrice wrote: "Prince Bolkonsky is supposedly modeled on Kant...."

Patrice -- I understand that is what your professor presented. I am going to add to Resources a note from P&V that states many of the Prince's characteristics were based on Tolstoy's maternal grandfather. (Of course, both statements may be true. I'm not enough of a Tolstoy scholar to have a defensible opinion.)


message 28: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments I remember reading that due to the conflict between Ireland and England, Yeats wanted the Irish to cease speaking English. He wanted them to speak Gaelic.

An illustration of how deeply embedded the French language is in aristocractic Russia: Prince Andrew / Andrey is in the very middle of telling his father about the military plans to fight Napoleon--- and he switches "unconsciously" from Russian into French.


message 29: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments When you say "the movie," is there a specific version you are thinking about?


message 30: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments Thanks, Patrice! I'll try to get that one. (I saw the first 15 minutes of the Kiera Knightly/ Jude Law _Anna Karenina_. 15 minutes was more than enough.)


message 31: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments Patrice wrote: "www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMqTIhsgThw SPOILER ALERT!"

Lovely!


message 32: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments So, in the scene in which Prince Andrew/ Andrey is describing to this father the plan to confront Napoleon Prince Andrey mentions the various armies. One is the Tolstoy army.

Do we know if there is any relationship between Lev Tolstoy and this Tolstoy mentioned in W&P?


message 33: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Adelle wrote: "So, in the scene in which Prince Andrew/ Andrey is describing to this father the plan to confront Napoleon Prince Andrey mentions the various armies. One is the Tolstoy army.

Do we know if..."


There was a distant relationship, if I remember correctly.


message 34: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Patrice wrote: "I'm having a hard time sticking with this book. It's so sad. It just occurred to me that like the Iliad, death is one of the characters. The book is a long series of deaths, from the Count on. ..."

But also all the many ways we can live.


message 35: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 22 comments Adelle wrote: "I remember reading that due to the conflict between Ireland and England, Yeats wanted the Irish to cease speaking English. He wanted them to speak Gaelic.

But I don't think Yeats spoke Gaelic. He must have been speaking very abstractly.

Re: French in Russia. Over huge parts of the world today, the language of education is different from the native language of students. Kazakh and Azeri students have told me that they speak Russian better than their native languages. I am an English Canadian who was educated partly in French. When I had studied a particular topic in French only, I sometimes found it hard to talk about that topic in English, because I didn't know the specialized vocabulary in English. It wasn't hard for me to catch up when there was need, but I don't think the place of French in the Russia of the time is odd.


message 36: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments You're right that Yeats didn't speak Gaelic.
And it's not odd for people to speak 2nd languages. I do see that that could be read as the implication of post 38.

I suppose I didn't actually explain what I was thinking/ why the scene seemed important to me.

Thoughts: I may have remembered incorrectly, but I had thought that Yeats advocated for Gaelic so that the Irish would retain their own language and not speak the accursed language of their English oppressors.

I can't find backup on this right now, but I seem to remember that Yeats felt he was too old to learn Gaelic properly...most especially that he was too old to learn to write as well in Gaelic as he could write in English---and so had [he felt] to continue writing in English.

But I thought of Yeats in this scene between Price A and his father. That they had begun their conversation in Russian. (They DID know Russian.) That they consciously began their conversation in Russian. You know, perhaps not wanting to use French--the language of their enemy ... at whose hands Prince A might soon die.


(I agree with you, Matthew...that this might have been a case of a specialized vocabulary. It did occur to me that Prince A switched to French without thinking about it because perhaps his military training had been in French, and thus military maneuvers would be easier to discuss in French. But in that case... If the Russians had their military training through the French... wouldn't it be likely that the French know that military training even better. In which case when speaking in French of military matters, subconsciously one would almost have to feel "We can't beat the French.")+


And yet, during the course of their conversation, Prince A " unconsciously " switches to French. That they had adopted the French so thoroughly.

I wondered how it might how felt to them. I mean, Russian hadn't been conquered by France and didn't have the language imposed on them. They (Russia/thru Peter) had wanted to emulate the West, had embraced the French language and various aspects of French culture over their own native language and culture; many had probably been educated in France; many probably felt a closeness to France. And then... to have that country ATTACK you....



It seemed to me---and,;), perhaps only to me---such a very important detail. I thought it revealed quite a lot---not just of Prince A, but of the aristocratic class of Russia.


message 37: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Adelle wrote: "It seemed to me---and, ;), perhaps only to me---such a very important detail. I thought it revealed quite a lot---not just of Prince A, but of the aristocratic class of Russia. ..."

I agree that it was an important detail -- of the type that makes Tolstoy's writing so great. Prince Bolkonsky could have been expected to conduct his household largely in Russian, but he too had been educated and worked such as to move effortlessly with his son.

However, the feelings about ATTACK get hazy. Several times we are told Prince Andrey considers Napoleon a hero -- but he is still one the Prince wants to defeat.

One does experience somewhat similar situations in many homes in the United States, perhaps especially where a second generation has acquired professional responsibilities but a "native" language is still used within the family.


message 38: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 148 comments But not really.... or at least I can't see the similarity. the Russians aren't like second generations... A second generation has actual people who once were citizens of the mother country. Mmmm... " mother."

Russians had no mother country in that sense. They themselves had embraced the West, the French. French culture didn't say to Russia, " You belong with us." They had themselves attached themselves, " We so admire you (??? And distain ourselves??? Distain our own culture??) that we will emulate you/ ape you/ aspire to be like you."

Second generation people, still cherish their ties to their old country or their former language because they loved it, or were proud of those aspects, or wanted to pass the good parts on to their children, too.

What about a people who favor the language of another country over their own---when they don't have to? , and look to the culture of that foreign country more than their own...but "claim" it as their own, like the guy who extolled "our good Russian tea...in the Oriental cup."


Who do the Russians feel they are at this point?
Are they like Pierre? No mother, little mother tongue?
Unsure of the rightness of calling their father Father?
Wondering about their legitimacy? Especially vis-a-vis Europe?


message 39: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 22 comments Well, people study code-switching their whole lives without exhausting its possibilities. It could be, as Adelle suggests, that there is something going on with national identity and self-respect.

None of the Russian literature that we study today had been written in 1805, except for the poetry of Lomonosov. Pushkin was five or six years old. Wikipedia lists two Russian philosophers who had published by then. I don't know about scientists, as the Wikipedia page is not organized that way.

Meanwhile, French was the mark of an educated person not only in Russia, but throughout Europe. English people, like Russians, didn't think anyone was educated who didn't know French. (Just as today, Asians don't think anyone is educated who doesn't know English.) And if one wanted to travel easily, French was essential, because it was the language people were most likely to know, throughout Europe.

I wonder how much the French language was identified with French people. English today has a certain neutrality about it, like a universal code. Perhaps it was the same. I would put more stress on the sense of inferiority about Russia than on the attraction of French culture.

Most of the time, Tolstoy has his characters code-switch without comment. There are a few remarks though. Marya Dmitriyevna, "le terrible dragon," always speaks Russian, and she is "a lady distinguished not for wealth or rank, but for common sense and frank plainness of speech. Marya Dmitrievna was known to the Imperial family as well as to all Moscow and Petersburg, and both cities wondered at her, laughed privately at her rudenesses, and told good stories about her, while none the less all without exception respected and feared her." The covert prestige of Russianness, then. Plain common sense.

I'm sure there must be other clues in the text, as to what the use of French and Russian mean.


message 40: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Adelle wrote: "But not really.... or at least I can't see the similarity...."

The similarity I was referring to was the comfort and ease of moving readily between languages, depending both on the persons speaking and the subjects being addressed.


message 41: by Lily (last edited Sep 04, 2013 09:57PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Matthew wrote: "I would put more stress on the sense of inferiority about Russia than on the attraction of French culture...."

Empress Catherine did make concerted efforts to bring Enlightenment ideas to Russia, many of which are considered to have originated in France.

I appreciate your comments suggesting French having been the English of that historical period. (As Latin had been in previous centuries.)

The Russian Cyrillic script posed special problems for ready communications, particularly across European borders.


message 42: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 22 comments I'm really not convinced that these people "want to be French." They often speak French in preference to Russian, yes. That distinguishes them from other Russians who can't speak French, makes them cosmopolitan people with access to new ideas. They sometimes use French phrases pretentiously, as when Anna Pavlovna Scherer uses the newly-imported word grippe on the first page. But all this is different from wanting to be French. They want access to "Europe," and there was no possible conduit for this other than French language.

I might be wrong. Is there a place in the text where someone feels a conflict between their use of French and the war against Napoleon?


message 43: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Matthew wrote: "I'm really not convinced that these people "want to be French."

So far, at least, I do agree with you. I haven't yet seen any characters who I think want to be considered French instead of Russian.

If there were such an idea, I think Pierre might be a prime example. He spent considerable time in Paris apparently during his late teens and early 20s, which are impressionable years, and apparently learned there to have enormous respect for Napoleon. But I don't see any suggestion that he wants to think of himself as French instead of Russian.


message 44: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4509 comments Could it be that Russian aristocrats identify with pre-revolutionary France, rather than contemporary France? It had only been a little over a decade since the revolution -- perhaps the Russian nobles' Francophilia is a holdover from before the revolution.


message 45: by Lily (last edited Sep 06, 2013 04:03PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Matthew wrote: "...French, makes them cosmopolitan people with access to new ideas...."

I think you hit at one of the critical reasons for the adoption of French in Russia, Matthew. It has been awhile since I've read a biography of Empress Catherine (reign 1762-1796, so right up close to the setting of our novel), but as I recall, Voltaire and other Enlightenment leaders were welcome, if not frequent, guests. Well, no, Wiki says she never met Voltaire, but did correspond with him for many years.

This is in the text a bit ahead of here, but I don't think it is really a spoiler, so will comment. (I noted the words in light of the commentary here about possibly "preferring" to be French.) Mlle Bourienne, the woman who serves Princess Marya, originally French, is referred to as without a country. The statement seems very neutral about nationality.

Prince Andrey admires Napoleon, but he wants to vanquish him.

Catherine's reign was a period of considerable expansion of the Russian empire and of Russian influence within Europe. A line of her Wiki entry that relates to Thomas's comment @64 reads: "After the French Revolution of 1789, Catherine rejected many principles of the Enlightenment that she had once viewed favourably."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empress_...

(A recent bio of Catherine has been getting good publicity. But I don't know that I can fit her into my TBR again.)


message 46: by Lily (last edited Sep 06, 2013 06:58PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Patrice wrote: "Russia never had a Renaissance or an Enlightenment did it? ..."

Well, scan thru the Wiki article on Catherine (Arts and Culture). I'm not enough of a historian to know either the appropriate assessment or terminology. There is another topic, "Russian Enlightenment."

Of course, one must beware of Wiki entries. However, given our text, I found this one of interest: "Some of the leading figures of the Russian Enlightenment are associated with Freemasonry and Martinism."


message 47: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Patrice wrote: "...It was against their own interests..."

Yes and no. Depends on what aspect being addressed.


message 48: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Thomas wrote: "Could it be that Russian aristocrats identify with pre-revolutionary France, rather than contemporary France? It had only been a little over a decade since the revolution -- perhaps the Russian nob..."

That's a very nice point.


message 49: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Everyman wrote: "Thomas wrote: "Could it be that Russian aristocrats identify with pre-revolutionary France, rather than contemporary France? It had only been a little over a decade since the revolution -- perhaps ..."

Yes. The Frenchmen at the social affairs are escaped aristocrats.


message 50: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 163 comments Anna M is such an interfering busy body! I know she's trying to protect Boris and Pierre but I found her actions extreme.

The death of the old count- are actions like this part of Russian culture? Moving the invalid to a place of repose after their last rites? What is its significance.

Princess Mary's unquestioning faith and acceptance are incredible. I'm not really sure what Tolstoy's opinions on religion were though. Times have changed. I would kick up a great fuss if I read in a letter that my marriage was being planned!

Andrey and Lise. I keep wondering if this was an arranged marriage. They seem so unsuited for each other. Andrew is so very practical and she is impractical. His father obviously brought him up to incredible rules, structure and routine. I feel sad for them both, they each see the other's inadequacies, but little of their own, or how to overcome these.

I wondered about the unborn child too. A son is his father's heir, does that entitle the fathers family more rights to a child? And does the upbringing of a daughter matter less. If the baby is a girl, without her father she will be like Lise. Why won't/ can't he prevent that in the event of his death.

I like how we get tidbits about characters via another, eg Pierre's news in Julie's letter. It shows how interlinked society is and how rife the gossip is.


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