Daily Archives: April 6, 2016

92% done with War and Peace


How many people would reproach Natasha for her love, be jealous of it. Maria could easily have made Natasha feel guilty by saying that she felt it was no good to act like she loved Andrei so little because she’s now so happy. How many people would give into that meanness? But this is why Maria is so good – she is not selfish and she truly loves her friend and lives for others. We should all be like Maria.

92% done with War and Peace


It would be remarkable for a person to be able to recall and relive the thought process one has when they realize they are in love and are loved. That blissful cloud we walk around on where everyone is good, the world is good, all people are good, and everything we do is good, is transitory. But for Pierre he’s able to recall that feeling his whole life and is wiser for it – it informs him and helps him.

91% done with War and Peace


Tolstoy absolutely nails the thoughts going on in a guy’s head when he loves a woman. The confusion, the bliss, the interpretation of her every words. Pierre’s realization of his love for Natasha is remarkably written in how real it feels. And again it mirrors the much younger version of Natasha when she giggled in her mother’s bed – now she is composed and the man is aflutter. Very fun.

91% done with War and Peace


“But what about my heirs?” said Pierre. “Supposing I suddenly marry… it might happen,” he added with an involuntary smile.

“If I may take the liberty, your excellency, it would be a good thing.”

One of the best exchanges in the entire novel – and even funny as far as Tolstoy can be funny.

91% done with War and Peace


As Natasha and Maria speak right before they go to bed it recalls a scene near the beginning of the novel where Natasha lays in her mother’s bed and they talk of the future and she believes things can work out “just so”. How much she has changed since then, how much she has seen and learned, and grown.

“And the same mischievous smile lingered for a long time on her face as if it had been forgotten there.”

91% done with War and Peace


“As he spoke now he was considering what impression his words would make on Natasha. He did not purposely say things to please her, but whatever he was saying he regarded from her standpoint.” When you love someone, truly love and respect them, then this is quite obvious.

This meeting isn’t just for Pierre and Natasha, but it’s the mending of Russia, the heart and soul reconnecting to heal after the war.

90% done with War and Peace


“…like the opening of a door grown rusty on its hinges” What a perfectly simple but also beautiful image to describe Natasha finding her joy for life again. You can see the image of a door opening to mirror a mouth turning to smile, but also the idea of stepping through a door to something better beyond from a dark room, of moving on is latent in the image.

90% done with War and Peace


“… the householders seized all they could find in other houses and moved it to their own, pretending that it was their property.”

I always wish I could ask people who do this (expecting an honest answer) why they think it’s OK to loot and steal. This is common, too and is not limited to any race, region, or income. There are so many dishonest people in the world, how do they justify their actions?

The Tartar Steppe: Read from April 03 to 06, 2016

Being in my 40’s the idea of leaving a decent paying job, taking out loans, and going back to college to finish my degree is, honestly, scary. The possibility I might just wind up in a lot of debt with no good chance to put my feet back under me, starting over as I near 50 feels like it could take more energy than I feel like I have in me. Yet after finishing this beautiful and sad novel, I at least have something I can look to and say, “I don’t want to be Drogo from The Tartar Steppe.”

From what I’ve read about other people’s perception of this work is that it is an anti-war novel, that it exposes the futility of military life and how such a life can lead to nothing worthwhile since all military life can rest on is the possibility of killing someone someday. Tolstoy would agree, too. He would tell us to go live on the farm, free our serfs, and harm no person. The military is a lot of hurrying up to wait for something that can never come: glory, because there is no glory in killing or dying.

However, that’s not what this novel is about. Yes there are elements that deal with how pointless the military life is, just as there are some passing similarities to Kafka’s The Castle, but what The Tartar Steppe is really about is missed opportunities.

Drogo (and doesn’t that name just sound like the work drudgery?) has done nothing but wait and expect something good to come to him. Drogo is not a hard worker, and he’s not particularly clever, either. Drogo trades in his youth for the hope it will be repaid to him at some future time when something great will happen to him, or at least he’ll be well recognized and his life put all in order. And so he waits. And he waits. And he waits.

Drogo does nothing, however, to actually live. He takes the word of the men around him, men who have their own interests and ploys, and believes that if he just does what he’s told that he’ll be rewarded. But they see he’s an easy mark, tell him stories of Tartar’s on the wild over the desert’s horizon and he buys it all. He isn’t curious to find out if any of it is true, he just accepts it.

Now we could say that this is why the military is bad – nobody questions authority and orders – but this happens all the time to most people, it’s not unique to the military. We believe if we go to school, get a certain job, buy a certain house, that life will reward us in spades. We pass the time watching TV (or reading books), we “run and we run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking, racing around to come up behind you again”. We stay at some dead-end job for too many of our best years until it’s too late to start over.

This novel is about the dangers of not doing anything, of going along with what we think other people, or even society wants from us. And then when we’re old and sick and tired, what then? What can we say we lived for? For a job? For a mortgage? Why didn’t we take those opportunities when we had them?

Halfway through the novel the POV shifts and we get the sad adventure of Angustina. This whole section takes place with not a word from Drogo. Why? Because he missed a chance to go out on patrol with them. And every other time the only time he learns about an opportunity is when someone else tells him or shows him. The General tells him the Fort will be reduced, Simeoni tells him about the road: he never discovers anything for himself. Even his one chance for love he failed at because he didn’t take any chance at all to tell her his heart, he just kept making excuses for why he shouldn’t take that chance.

Drogo was a coward. This is why he’s whisked away to the Inn at the end. He’s not a real military man, and so he won’t even get to see what he thinks he wants. Fate took it away from him because he was undeserving. And so we too would be cowardly if we chose the easy path everyday, if we didn’t go out and see where some strange road leads to.

I know this sounds a little cliche, but Dino Buzzati is telling us not to waste our lives. He may have meant don’t waste it for some Fascist regime in Italy, but this is a brilliant work of art and it transcends just one reading. He’s warning us against not standing up and taking charge of our own lives.

And so as depressing as I found this novel, it is also inspirational in it’s warning: don’t let time get away from you because nobody will help you and they might even take advantage of you to get where they’re going.

page 197 of 198 of The Tartar Steppe

Incredible imagery of the room getting darker, the threatening outline of the furniture, the white of the bed alone visible. And you feel his life draining out slowly You feel his end, his solitude, the sadness of it all.

So depressing, but a great warning, too. I’m reminded of Stoner’s death in his room watching the young people cross the lawn. The books are similar, too.