Magazine Cultura

"War and Peace" by Lev Tolstoj (vol.2)

Creato il 07 ottobre 2011 da Memole

Inthe second volume of this almost never-ending and sometimes draggedon novel (come on, don't be shocked, Tolstoj really lacks inconcision), you will find a lot of war and not as much peace. A greatdeal of pages are devoted to an important field battle and to thefire in Moscow, when the Russian army inexplicably left their capitalcity in the hands of Napoleon. In spite of this, there is still timeto witness Count Pierre Bezukhov's life-changing experience as a warprisoner and his humanitarian experiments. This was my favouritestrand of the novel: I could not help but feel sympathy for Pierre,in spite of his foolishness (at a certain point he starts believingthat he is destined to kill Napoleon because of an obscurecabbalah-related calculation he has made). Natasha also changes a lotin this second volume and by the end of the book she is finally awoman. Prince Andrej, instead, ends up being almost the hero and hisstory line is harrowing but also uplifting. You could argue that “Warand Peace” is, among many other things, a buildungsroman.I know that most scholars speak of it as the historical novel parexcellence and I amnot saying it is not that as well. Only, it is difficult to ignorethat every character matures somewhere between page 1 and page 1425and in order to do that each of them has to live through a war andseveral tribulations.
Theprimary intent of the book becomes clearer than ever by the end ofthe book. The last thirty pages of “War and Peace” are actuallyan essay, pure non-fiction inserted in a novel. This of course makesyou think. More than a family saga, “War and Peace” is the mediumemployed by Lev Tolstoj to write about history. Tolstoj believed in fatalism and thought that revolutions and wars did not happen because of the ambition and desire for power of single leaders. In Tolstoj's world, great men – Napoleon first of all, but also Kutuzov or Murat – are only oneof the many factors that make what we like to call “history”.Apart of me would like to say that Tolstoj's attempt in these last thirty pages to explain how history works was a failure:instead of showing us what history is and how it works through thecharacters in the book, Tolstoj ends his novel with an essay,departing from the narrative texture never to return to it.Nonetheless, it is quite possible that this was perfectly acceptablein the 19thcentury when Tolstoj wrote the book and I must confess that hisopinions (and his metaphors to explain how he thinks history functions)are alluring to say the least. However, I found thephilosophical parts slightly redundant. "War and Peace" is an old-fashioned novel, this I can say without feeling guilty. It has become a classic, not only of Russian literature, but of world literature. It is vast and contains many things. It can provoke frustration ("is this book ever going to finish?") or admiration ("how can Tolstoj describe the world so well?"), but surely you cannot dismiss it very easily. It makes you keep thinking about what you have read. In other words, you feel its weight even after you've finished it.

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