By Count Leo Tolstoy
I will start by a confession. Many times when I write a review of an old book, that I guess many of you must have read, the question that comes to mind is you must be asking where I was when you read them. I wish I knew but I am reading them now and as my very important audience, I have to share with you the joy I draw from such books.
With that behind us, for those interested in what Kutuzov did or did not do, what happened to Helene the socialite the family affairs of Prince Bezukhov or Princess Mary and what led to the ruin of the Rostovs’, you can read the whole novel.
But those lazy ones, who are interested more in the questions of history or human nature, the epilogue will do. In the epilogue he asks what is power, what causes the movement of nations, such as what led to the movement from the west to the east that ended with the taking of Moscow and the countermovement from East to west that ended in Paris?
The other important question, at least in my view, that he dispenses with is that of freewill. And I do not, for the life of me, know why it isn’t part of the literature in the freewill debate. His explanations are clear and almost irrefutable if not irrefutable.
At the end of the book, I begin to see why Fyodor Dostoevsky, would call him, Tolstoy, one of the greatest writers living. His was a brilliant mind. He combined story telling with psychology in a way that can only be compared to Dostoevsky’s works.
It’s a long read for the fainthearted but it is worth all the time you would take to finish ploughing through it.
In the opinion of Pierre or Prince Bezukhov consists in
The absence of suffering, the satisfaction of one’s needs and freedom in the choice of one’s occupation
Prince Andrew after returning to Moscow to find Natalie broke their engagement seeks out Kutuzov to be admitted back to the army. He has been summoned to meet the Emperor but while waiting he meets Pfuel, a German theorist of war, and this is how he describes him and others
Pfuel was one of those hopelessly and immutably self- confident man, self- confident to the point of martyrdom as only Germans are, because only Germans are self confident on the basis of an abstract notion- science, that is, the supposed knowledge of absolute truth. A Frenchman is self assured because he regards himself personally, both in mind and body, as irresistibly attractive to men and women. An Englishman is self assured, as being a citizen of the best-organised state in the world, and therefore as an Englishman always knows what he should do and knows that all he does as an Englishman is undoubtedly correct. An Italian is self-assured because he is excitable and easily forgets himself and other people. A Russian is self-assured just because he knows nothing does not want to know anything, since he does not believe that anything can be known. The German’s self-assurance is worst of all, stronger and more repulsive than any other, because he imagines that he knows the truth- science- which he himself has invented but which is for him the absolute truth.
I believe most, if not all of you, dear readers may disagree with Prince Andrew’s assessment.
Princess Mary is writing a letter to her friend Julie Karagina and she offers an explanation of why good people die. She is consoling her friend following the death of her brother in one of the campaigns. She says she can only explain it as a providence of god, who loving her (Julie) wishes to try you and your excellent mother.
She then proceeds to say
Religion alone can save us from despair
which reminds me of the quote
religion; it’s given peace in a world torn apart by religion
She then says
religion alone can explain to us what without its help man cannot comprehend; why, for what cause, kind and noble beings able to find happiness in life are called away to god, while cruel, useless, harmful persons, or such as are a burden to themselves and others are left living.
And I know many are wondering what this answer may be. She says death was but an expression of the infinite goodness of the creator, who every action, though generally incomprehensible to us, is but a manifestation of his infinite love for his creatures.
And as her final apology for god, she says
and his will is governed only be infinite love for us and so whatever befalls us is for our good.
And at this point I ask why should a believer ask god to grant their wish, like ask god to make their team win? Is it not god’s will that the believer’s life is shitty and this for their own good? Am I missing something?