I have just finished reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. I first read this book nearly forty years ago. Back then I considered it to be one of the best novels that I have ever read. Reading it again after such a long time, I have not really changed my opinion. I had forgotten how much I had been influenced by Tolstoys thinking.
Tolstoy tells the story of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia at the beginning of the nineteenth century. He gives an amazing description of the Battle of Borodino, which was the turning point in this war. Reading his account, you get a sense of the scale and scope of the battle, but at the same time you learn what it was like in the centre of the battle. His descriptions contrast the hardships of the foot soldier with the luxury and huge baggage trains of the generals and their hanger-ons. The foolishness of the generals and emperors is revealed again and again.
At another level, Tolstoy describes the lives and interactions of half a dozen Russian families. His characters emerge from the pages with amazing detail. The story of their births and deaths, their loves and marriages, their sufferings and adventures keep the ready engaged right to the end of the book.
In between all this, Tolstoy undertakes sum detailed philosophical discussions about the meaning and purpose of life. I found this a very interesting combination.
In my next few posts, I will put up some interesting quotes.