War and Peace
Original Title: Война и миръ
This historical novel by Lew Tolstoy is set during the years 1801 to 1820. It describes the attack of Napoleon’s army on other European countries, and on Russia in particular, from the Russian point of view.
The principal characters are mainly members of noble families, but in between we are also offered a view into the lives of serf farmers, domestic servants, soldiers and Cossacks.
Episodes from war and from social life in Moscow and St. Petersburg alternate, for there is also war and peace in the “Society”. In social circles it is just as important as in military circles to make strategic decisions, however, these decisions relate to other fields.
Both „worlds“ are called their home by people who quite thoughtlessly do what they think is expected from them by morals and customs that were in use at the time.
Those who have the courage to leave the beaten track or reconsider former decisions and thereafter go new ways are rays of hope in the darkness.
Men are allowed much more freedom than women, but when a marriage is based on mutual love of the soul and not on the own sake, the wife is able to help her husband to a higher level in many respects.
The depiction of both Napoleon and the Russian general Kutuzov — who never became very famous outside his own country — is striking. Tolstoy concludes this juxtaposition of characters with the words:
… there is no grandeur there where there is no simplicity, kindness and truth!
And these qualities Napoleon, who is considered „great“ by many people – does not possess. –
This epic goes way beyond a narrative of events. It contains a profound description of the characters of people and changes they go through, or just choose not to go through. I felt innerly enriched after reading this book.