I have been thoroughly enjoying the new translation of War and Peace by Pevear and Volokhonsky. I read the novel first when I was about fifteen, and parts of it remain with me yet. Memory is amazing! I also recall avidly watching the full set of BBC episodes dramatizing the novel with Anthony Hopkins starring as the naive, but genuine Pierre Bezukhov. The image above shows him enduring a dinner next to the woman, Helen, intended to be his wife.
Just now, I read the passage where he realizes that Helen, stunningly beautiful, but very stupid, could be his. Really, physically his. Never mind that he is nearsighted, bumbling, plump, filled with strange liberal ideas, and prone to being tactlessly honest. He’s just been elevated to the nobility from the state of bastardy: his father died and adopted him in his will, making him sole heir to a humongus fortune! Everyone thinks it’s the perfect match, and she is…so…icily beautiful. Look at that … at those… Oh well, that was the fashion of the day.
An amazing piece of fiction, it draws one in immediately. It’s strange too. There is no plot, only history. No real hero, although, I guess Pierre comes close. War is shown as brutal, stupid, filled with vanity and destruction, but also heroism. The action cuts back and forth across space like a contemporary film. The Russian upper crust is depicted as filled with scheming, vain, shallow, money-grubbing twits. Tolstoy spends much time describing the sad and confusing mental state of several young people aching for love, physical love too, and not understanding the circumstances and conventions surrounding it. And events move slowly, inevitably towards that dreadful calamity.
* Happy to meet your cleavage.