War and Peas

И не было ответа ни на один из этих вопросов, кроме одного, не логического ответа, вовсе не на эти вопросы. Ответ этот был: «умрешь — всё кончится. Умрешь и всё узнаешь, или перестанешь спрашивать». Но и умереть было страшно.

Война и мир
Лев Толстой

And there was no answer to any of these questions except one, which was not logical and was not at all an answer to these questions. This answer was: “You will die—and everything will end. You will die and learn everything—or stop asking.” But to die was also frightening.

War and Peace, Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
Lev Tolstoy

NapoleonI confess that I really didn’t know very much about Napoleon. I knew that Beethoven had a fit when Napoleon declared himself emperor, so Ludwig scratched his name off of the Bonaparte Symphony and renamed it the Eroica. And Napoleon made a strategic blunder in attacking the Russians during their long, cold winter and was forced to retreat. And Chaikovsky’s Overture was not named after our War of 1812. And there was Waterloo where Napoleon was defeated. And after he was exiled to an island, Napoleon claimed, “Able was I ere I saw Elba”, although it doesn’t have quite the same effect in its original French.

Maybe a few more odds and ends, but I really didn’t know much about his campaigns or that his greatest victory was the Battle of Austerlitz.

But I found that when I looked up some data points, I was better able to appreciate certain aspects of Tolstoy’s epic story. I assume that most Russians reading that tome back in the 19th century knew the battles of Napoleon inside out, just as Americans would know about, say, the Revolutionary War battles.

Hmmm, maybe that’s a poor comparison.

Anyway, I did find some of the battle passages much easier to digest when I knew the outcome in advance.

However, I’m now about one third of the way through War and Peace, and it has become a tough slog.

It didn’t help when Tolstoy went into excruciating detail about the Masons when Pierre joined them and decided they held the secret to life. 

Thankfully, a few chapters later he realized that most Masons were hypocrites. I mean, duh!

So progress has slowed, and I’m not sure how much further I’m going to get, as at this point I don’t really care much about the fate of any of the characters.

Maybe I’ll just watch one of the mini-series.

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