“The truth was that she didn’t love her fiance. But neither did she love anyone else.” The gossip talk (tertulia), “sounded like the droning of a fly in the heart of a young lady who, not being in love, at least wished to be.
He’s slowly building up the activity of the town, the history, the merchants with all their interesting things, the colors, the smells, and even some noise as the well dressed children ask for donations from the gentlemen.
England where the streets are paved with iron and the carriages kick up sparks everywhere. Kids imagination.
Barbarita Arnaiz was influenced as a child by the full sized mannequins in the shop. All color and the Manila shawls. Her home was small and cheap but the shawls were like a garden of flowers in the shop.
“Civilization, my dear, is just so much talk.”
I love this back and forth between Juanito’s passions (pranks in school, then serious studies, now aloof socialite) and his off-stage mother, Barbarita who is always praying for her son, always proud of what he’s doing (but not too proud). She’s literally a guardian angel.
“Reading was artificial borrowed life, benefiting from ideas and sensations transmitted cerebrally, acquiring the treasures of human truth by purchase or swindle, not by work.”
Nicholas is Tolstoy’s thesis in action. Unlike some “great man”, Nicholas does the right thing without conceit and for the benefit of others, though sternly and not in some poetic manner. He is the type of leader Tolstoy believes in, someone who works hard, works humbly, and is fruitful and shares in that bounty, though not indulgently. If the world ran like Nicholas’ Bald Hills the world would be fine.
Of all the relationships in the novel, Maria’s and Nicholas’ is the most real. Of all the changes we see Pierre and Natasha go through, somehow we actually live the changes that Maria and Nicholas go through. Both are sensitive people, both have hid themselves away either through family or career, both are proud and sacrificing – they are the true Russian people (all people) of the novel.
I think it’s important not to feel sorry for the Rostov’s after the death of the Count. They had all lived so well, so happily and on so much credit that this “poverty” is deserved. Living within ones means is a virtue, too and now Nicholas is learning that lesson. His pride, however, his stubbornness is just as bad and he could save himself much misery by not indulging his mother and by asking Pierre for $
“See what you believed in! This is he! Do you now see that it was not he but I who moved you?”
“The higher the human intellect rises in the discovery of these purposes, the more obvious it becomes, that the ultimate purpose is beyond our comprehension.”
Chance and opportunity. How many bees were not successful? How many evolutionary dead-ends have there been?
Tolstoy briefly touches on an idea I find interesting and that is how the people around a “great person” will feed that narrative thus enabling the “great person” to go further and do more “great” things. These “great” people are very much at the mercy of the tide around them because they would be useless without help.
The golden parachute Napoleon is given still happens today with robber CEO’s. Maddening.
Douglas Adams does a nice job with his puddle analogy of summing up what Tolstoy is trying to get across.
“If we admit that human life can be ruled by reason, the possibility of life is destroyed.”
Zweig, in his World of Yesterday described how Austrian society had been set up as a case-study of reason and logical structure and it all fell apart because it only included a small number of people who could enjoy it and angered everyone else who tore it all down, both for good and bad.
We live in similar times