Hello! This blog post represents the second part of my War and peace reading journey, where I cover the second half of the book. If you’re interested, you can also read about my experience of reading the first half of the book.
§ Date: 20.10.2017, pages read so far: 736 (approx. 75%)
As it was expected with such a lengthy book, after reading approx. half of it I felt the need of taking a break from Tolstoy’s story, so for almost 2 weeks, I put it aside. Now I’m back with enthusiasm, challenging myself to end it by the end of October.
Going back to the story, the second half of the book started with many war stories, which are not really my cup of tea … However, I found some very interesting views about battles and history in general that I want to share with you.
Starting from the idea that Napoleon was seen as a military genius, the narrator argues that “there is not and cannot be any science of war, and that therefore there can be no such thing as a military genius“. And this, he says, is because success does not depend so much on position, equipment or numbers, but on the feeling that is in each soldier.
Continuing this line of thought, the narrator explains that people (including military officers) act “involuntarily and irrationally” in war times, and later on “to fit what had occurred, the historians provided cunningly devised evidence of the foresight and genius the generals who, of all the blind tools of history were the most enslaved and involuntary.“
I find this idea intriguing, as it suggests that the random character of war is being later explained with a hindsight bias, historians finding a way to logically explain what happened when actually there is no objective basis for it.
Before wrapping up this reading journey entry, I want to share one more thing I read. It’s about a six-year girl, Malasha, who attended a Council of War meeting (being the granddaughter of one of the officials). I found it so fascinating that the narrator “used” the child’s point of view to show the personal feelings and power plays, while the actual discussions and arguments were suggesting a different situation. Take this passage, for example:
“Malasha, who kept her eyes fixed on what was going on before her, understood the meaning of the council differently. It seemed to her that it was only a personal struggle between “Granddad” and “Long-coat” [..]. She saw that they grew spiteful when they spoke to one another, and in her heart she sided with “Granddad.”
The more I read, the more I consider Tolstoy a brilliant writer! I am really looking forward to seeing how the whole story will end …
§ Date: 31.10.2017, pages read so far: 994 (100%)
Yaay! I did it! I finished reading War and Peace! It was a long journey (approx. 2 months and a half), with ups and downs, experiencing emotional events and philosophical argumentations, a journey that made me discover Russia and Tolstoy’s genius.
Let me tell you how I experienced the final parts of the book. Again, we had war parts and peace parts. When it comes to the war element, I felt that now the tension on the battlefield was lower … but the tension between the Russian officials was quite high. Russians had to do an apparently easy thing: to let the French army retreat … but it was not as simple as it seems:
“The Russian army had to act like a whip to a running animal. And the experienced driver knew it was better to hold the whip raised as a menace than to strike the running animal on the head.”
Also related to war, I enjoyed a lot the mathematical and structured approach Tolstoy had when defining the strength of an army: “the strength of an army is the product of its mass and some unknown x“. While historians suggest that x depends on “a geometric formation, [..] the equipment employed, [..] the genius of the commanders”, Tolstoy argues that the unknown is the spirit of the army “that is to say, the greater or lesser readiness to fight and face danger felt by all the men composing an army“. In conclusion, we have the formula:
Strength of army = Mass of the army x Spirit of the army
When it comes to the main characters of the story and the emotional events … be prepared for some moving scenes. I think the ending was not totally unexpected, but there were some interesting last-minute changes happening in the characters’ lives.
Tolstoy reveals a lot about the evolution of the characters in the first epilogue, where we are presented an intimate family universe, fast-forward 7 years after the main events covered by the book. A quote I liked a lot was about the fantastic communication that can be achieved between husband and wife:
“This simultaneous discussion of many topics did not prevent a clear understanding but on the contrary was the surest sign that they fully understood one another.”
I think Tolstoy’s message was that people get over the sorrows and misfortunes caused by war times, but their lives are certainly changed forever. And no matter how dark the horizon seems to be (and believe me, it was pitch-black in some situations), the sun will shine for everybody at some point.
Now that the journey of reading War and Peace is over, I must confess I feel a little melancholic about it (I know … #bookwormproblems). Being immersed for two months in the same literary universe is something I’ve never experienced before and it surely had an impact on me.
The reading journey might be finished, but the journey of finding out more about War and Peace and Tolstoy has just begun! Thank you very much for following my reading journey and stay tuned for the next surprises! 😀
‘Till next time … happy reading!