Scribe, ut possis cum voles dicere: dices cum velle debebis (Pl. Ep. 6.29)

Monday, July 19, 2004

Russian classical novels -- what is it good for?

I'm finally taking up Tolstoy's "War and Peace, What is it Good For" in its original tongue, Russian French. It goes surprisingly quickly, i'm already on page 370. It's truly amazing how lively his language sounds. Tolstoy is so damn good at presenting different character types, such as Boris' disgusting adaptiveness to army bureaucracy -- "a subordination in which a well-connected staff sergeant can give orders to a colonel". And then there are also Marie's modest religiousness, Dolokhov's repulsive cruelty, and Prince Andrew's manly, blunt and individualistic reasoning. But my favourite is Pierre Bezukhov, of course, with his emotional directness, unpretentiousness and naïve search for truth.

Some critics go all the way to say that "War and Peace" is really more of an excercise in character prototyping than an actual novel, but that's exactly the thing i love about it. Tolstoy's philosophy never stops surprising me -- i would expect that he would emphasize virtues like patriotism, faith and honor much more, but he stubbornly keeps teaching the reader that nothing is more important than humanity, life and love. If only he was the czar.


Anonymous said...
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nev said...

hmm... on saturday my dad told me that it's about time i've read Dostoyewski...
I've never read anything from any russion Author yet... Shame on me :(