The Kreutzer Sonata

As I wrote in my thoughts on Anna Karinena, Tolstoy inhabits people. He gets to know them. He lives in them and inhabits their souls. In this case, that of a jealous murderer. 

A scene not actually from the novella

And Tolstoy writes from the jealous murderer’s viewpoint with sympathy. I didn’t feel sympathy for him but Tolstoy wrote with sympathy. He didn’t condemn his creation. He simply depicted him truly – without judgement. Which is off putting. Does this mean Tolstoy agree with his character? He seems to hate women, kids and sex. And possibly himself as well as humanity in general. Tolstoy doesn’t flinch. No. Of course, Tolstoy doesn’t agree with his protagonist. But this character of his is a human being, like all of us but one whose flaws overcome him and lead him into killing his wife. 

I could have done without the killer’s rationalization and speechifiying for half the novella. Or it could have at least been present in more of a debate or dialogue rather than an endless monologue.

Anna Karinena

Tolstoy knows me. He seems to know everyone. Deeply.

One of the best compliments I got on my own writing was by a friend who said something to the effect of, “I know every single one of those characters in your book. Including me.”

It was one of my proudest moments. I thought that I’d created several characters that were believable and realistic. But that compliment, said by someone who I respected, proved I’d accomplished it.

But I’m no Tolstoy.

He seems to know the souls of every character he writes because they are the souls of every person he ever met. We’re not so different really but he was able to detail the inner life of each character – no matter how diverse – so succinctly. Even in my own life, I feel it’s hard to empathise with my younger self. How can that young man I was do such a stupid thing? Who was that teenager that was so stupid? As if I was another person. That lack of empathy must be profound at a differnet person – a different sex, race, etc. 

I marvel at how Tolstoy is able to put us in the mind and soul of Anna in love and in despair. In Levin’s heart as he waffles between one socially awkward scene to another struggling with his own faith. Or giving us empathy for Vronksy, who only wanted to love – on his terms. I only mention these three but none of his characters are caricatures. All are given a soul. They may be bad people or have bad moments but Tolstoy does not treat them badly. They are not created, I feel, just to be sacrificed for a lesson or to be the baddie.

Even looking back on the story, I want to dislike Vronsky. Or Alexei Karenin or Anna. Definitely Stiva …but I can’t. Not really. I’ve gotten to know them.

Ok, Stiva is just a dick.

War and Peace – I finished it.

I am Pierre Bezukhov.

That is to say, I’m a bit of a goof trying to do my best and failing. I’m trying to improve myself but often coming up worse for wear. I’m often going on tangents in life but meandering back, I think, slowly, to the truth path that I was always seeking and would never have arrived at if I hadn’t gone on all those side trips.

Earnest and silly and a fool and I think wiser than all the other characters by the end, Pierre is the character that is going to stick with me. While I’m sure I will not forget the novel any time soon – maybe the educational bits and the second epilogue – I’m sure the characters and plots will get muddled in my brain but Pierre’s journey will not because it’s just hit too close to home. Likely for many.

While reading it I often wished I had read it earlier but I have a feeling I was too immature and just not ready for it. I am not and I hope I have the interest to read it again and I hope I have the growth to read it with new eyes when I do.

This is a brilliant guide, btw: https://medium.com/@BrianEDenton/a-year-of-war-and-peace-cc66540d9619

2019 Reading Project: War and Peace Book Ten

Growing up, I came to think anything anti-war started with the 1960s. The Baby Boomers, like many generations, though they were the first to think the thoughts they had. They were no different than other generations – although maybe they did amp up the narcissism.

Of course there were other works of anti-war fiction but Book Ten of W&P seems to me the most memorable and the most epic. From the beginning of the book as the Russians seem to fall apart and flee before a purposeless French army finally ending at Borodino with the opposing mindsets of the historic Napoleon and Zutuzov down to the blood soaked fictional field hospital where Dolohov is having his leg amputated.

I could do with less of Tolstoy’s historical essays interrupting the narrative. But I knew they were coming. Maybe at some point I’ll read about why those are in there. They aren’t too distracting and are a bit informative but I’m not reading this to be informed.

The Russian (Bees) are here!

This week my two orders of Russian bees came. In the past I’ve ordered Italians but since I’ve had little success with that breed, time to change it up.

In the McEwen Hive, we had some serious interest from some wild bees. They looked to be moving in. They stayed a week or so but by the time the two packages of Russian’s showed up they were gone. So in when the Russians. And they were absolutely easy to install.

The next day I put another package in at the McKee Hive and had the same easy. I’m still hoping to keep some for Hooper and Koewler Hives. And hoping those installations go just as easy.

One big change I’m doing this year is that I’m feeling the living heck out of these guys. In the past I’ve tried to go full blown hippie dippie natural. Let the bees be. And they’ve all died or absconded. No more of that. I can’t handle the disappointment. These bees or now going to go on full Swedish welfare. Lots of feeding, especially in the spring and then later in the fall. I’m going to make them fat and not want to leave. They are going to go into the winter with as much honey as possible. And as strong as possible.

2019 Reading Project: War and Peace Book Nine

I’m about 330,000 words into W&P and Tolstoy still has me humming along with his narrative. Book Nine is mostly about Napoleon finally launching into Russian. We all know how this turns out for the French but I don’t know how it will turn out for the characters…and I want to know.

1FK-160-E1812-10-B (15946) ‘Napoleon zu Moskau, 1812’ Napoleon I. Bonaparte, Kaiser der Franzosen, 1769-1821. – ‘Napoleon zu Moskau, 1812’. – (Rußlandfeldzug 1812. Napoleon im bren- nenden Moskau, 14./16. September). Lithographie, koloriert, um 1850, von R. Werbezahl nach Zeichnung von Friedrich August Frenzel (1814-1888). E: ‘Napoleon in Moscow, 1812’ Napoleon I Bonaparte, emperor of the French (1804-15); 1769-1821. – ‘Napoleon in Moscow, 1812’. – (Russian campaign 1812. Napoleon in burning Moscow, 14-16 September). Lithograph, coloured, c.1850, by R. Werbezahl after a drawing by Friedrich August Frenzel (1814-1888). F: ‘Napoléon à Moscau, 1812’ Napoléon Ier Bonaparte, empereur des Français ; 1769-1821. – ‘Napoléon à Moscau, 1812’. – (Campagne de Russie, 1812. Napoléon dans Moscou incendié, 14-16 septembre). Lithographie, coloriée, v.1850, de R.Werbezahl d’ap. dessin de Friedrich August Frenzel (1814-1888).

What I’m most impressed by is not only how episodic the story telling is but how deeply thought out it is yet how accessible it is. Again, I’m terribly intimidated by Tolstoy.

One last observation: I love it’s genre-lessness. War and romance. politics and family squabbles. He writes about it all and he writes it all so truthfully. Incredible.

War and Peace – Book Eight My 2019 Reading Project

Natasha “thinking”

Natasha is sweet but you can’t leave a woman in her prime on the shelf for a year like Andy does. Sooner or later hormones and biology are just going to do what they do. They’re explosive enough but when you add Moscow nightlife and then Anatole to the mixture. Pow!

So you have the downfall, in the eyes of 1812 Moscow culture of a nice girl who was treated poorly by a grumpy old count, his too-obedient son and a rich playboy. Not to mention her own dad who didn’t prep her for reality.

But wait, near the end of the book Pierre seems to be nice…he could make her happy…if it weren’t for that nasty yet beautiful Ellen. What shall happen? What shall happen?

Onward!

This is a brilliant guide, btw: https://medium.com/@BrianEDenton/a-year-of-war-and-peace-cc66540d9619

Roland Sardines with Chili Peppers

Country: Morocco
Calories: 220