Thursday, February 16, 2006

Lovin' the Tsar

now reading: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

"Pfuhl was one of those inordinately, unshakably self-assured men -- self-assured to the point of martyrdom, as only a German can be, because only a German bases his self-assurance on an abstract idea: science, that is, the supposed knowledge of absoute truth. A Frenchman's self-assurance stems from his belief that he is mentally and physically irresistibly fascinating to both men and women. An Englishman's self-assurance is founded on his being a citizen of the best organized state in the world and on the fact that, as an Englishman he always knows what to do, and that whatever he does as an Englishman is unquestionably correct. An Italian is self-assured because he is excitable and easily forgets himself and others. A Russian is self-assured simply because he knows nothing and does not want to know anything, since he does not believe in the possibility of knowing anything fully. But a German's self-assurance is the worst of all, more inflexible and repellent than any other, because he imagines that he knows the truth, science, which is his own invention, but which for him is absolute truth." - pp. 770-771

I wonder what, if anything, Tolstoy might have added if he had written 100 years later, or 50, about the a U.S. citizen's self-assurance? Perhaps nothing, but perhaps something. How would Mr. T's world view have been different even thirty years later? He was so observant. If he had written 50 years later, it would have been a time when the U.S. had become a major player in European war (namely, World War I). Man, I'd like to hear from him today.

I like the way he wryly analyzes the German's self-assurance. I frankly like the way he questions just about everything. I love his scene of the generals and important people who influence the tsar trying to outdo each other with their brilliant strategies; people latch on to their opinions creating factions, but most people just shift their allegiance to the trendiest theory, the guy who's got everyone's support at the time.

Rostov has come of age, and Pierre, despite the passage of time, is still just a bit lost, but he means so well. Natasha saw that really early on, too, so she must be destined to be with him! The latest freemason nonsense to take hold in his brain is the numerology assigning the number 666 to L'empereur Napoleon and Pierre's subsequent desperate attempt to make the numbers work for his name to assign himself a pivotal role in the Apocalypse revelation. Oh, Pierre. Le pauvre! He has to find meaning somewhere, in something, and why shouldn't it be Natasha, you know?

So I failed. I did not even come close to writing daily this week as I aimed to. Maybe next week. But Napoleon is pushing deep into Russia, and things are getting intense! When the Tsar blows back into town and gives his speech, throngs pack the square; they hang on his every word, or even pounce upon a scrap of food dropped by him from the balcony. And the people of the rich nobility party circuit are now rejecting France, the French language, etc., and anti-French fervor is sweeping Russia where French was the thing to know a few years earlier.

And so it goes, and so it goes...

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