233. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (FP: 1869) translated by Anthongy Briggs (Penguin, 2005; 1392) is divided into four volumes and an epilogue and other extras. The reviews were carried out in the volumes and this is to consolidate for easy reference.
Volume I: This 313-page volume introduces the reader to the Bolkonskys - Prince Nikolay Bolkonsky, the father; Prince Andrey, the son married to little princess Liza, and Princess Marya, the daughter; the Rostovs - Natasha, the daughter; Nikolay, the son; Petya, the younger son, Vera, the eldest daughter; the Kuragins - the scheming Prince Vasily Kuragin who, unable to outwit Pierre (later Count Bezukhov of his inheritance), married his daughter, Helene, to him and was about to marry his son, the troublesome Anatole to Princess Marya because of Prince Nikolay Bolkonsky's riches but he failed. There was also the scheming Anna Mikhaylovna and his son Boris. (continue here)
Volume II: In this part, Prince Andrey Bolkonsky comes home the day his wife delivers and dies. This took the Prince into a period of gloom only to fall in love with Natasha Rostov and get his heart broken after she falls in love with the careless Anatole Kuragin. Pierre (Count Bezukhov) hears stories about his cheating wife, Helene, with his friend Dolokhov and challenges him to a duel of which both survives but Dolokhov left with a bullet wound. Pierre could be said to be the most frustrated person in the novel. He is seeking the meaning of life but finds that even for those who claim they have found the way, their lives is antithetical to what they preach and unable to reconcile how this could be, Pierre reverts to his earlier life of heavy drinking and gloom. This is after he has been introduced to Freemason and found its teachings lacking in the lives of its adherents. However, Pierre who comes back to live with his wife again after the separation that resulted after the duel, cannot resolve the meaning of his feelings for Natasha and knowing that his Prince Andrey is engaged to her, he left Moscow to Petersburg. (Continue here)
Volume III: Volume III begins with a critical analyses of the human condition and human nature and man's place and role in world events and history and the misconception and false attributions that is fraught in our analyses of causes. Tolstoy's essay discusses predestination, man's role in humanity's history and the belief that man has control over historical events. Tolstoy agrees with (or Nassim Taleb rather agrees with Tolstoy) on man's epistemic arrogance regarding man's quest to understand events. He argued that man, with the benefit of hindsight, pretends to understand historical events when in fact he understands nothing and only isolates some actions as having caused such events because he can now, post-facto, look back and select any of the numerous causes and claim boldly that what he has identified is (or are) the real (true, actual) cause(s) of the event, when in actual fact what he has found played no role or played a very minute role in a series of sequential actions that culminated into that event. This was the third characteristic of a Black Swan event as described by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. (continue here)
Volume IV (and Epilogue): Volume IV begins with a life in Petersburg after the abandonment of Moscow. It also shows how the Russians struggled to uplift themselves from the clutches of French culture and its recherche lifestyle. It should be noted that this is a period where the speaking of French is seen as the ultimate achievement of Russian gentry. However, this invasion blossomed in their hearts a sense of belonging and a sense of patriotism that traverse all aspects of life, including language.
Life in Petersburg initially seemed to be unaffected and untouched by the invasion of Moscow; the aristocrats still held their parties, loose talks still flew around, and all thoughts of war and death were suppressed. However, as the news of Moscow's abandonment gradually filtered to the people, a general despondency overcame the people.
In Moscow, Pierre who had been arrested and accused of arson, for helping a woman who was being robbed by a French soldier, and has refused, initially, to declare who he was escaped execution by providence; but he couldn't escape witnessing the death of several others. Pierre was taken as a prisoner and was later rescued by the guerrilla unit of Denisov and Dolokhov, a mission that led to the death of Piotyr Rostov, the youngest Rostov who, following the footsteps of his brother, Nikolay, had enlisted himself and set out to defend the fatherland and had at that moment enthusiastically galloped into death when he allowed his youthful exuberance to override Denisov's military advice. (continue here)