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Showing posts from December, 2013

War and Peace 2013: Entry 23--The Second Epilogue

N.B.—This post will deal exclusively with the Second Epilogue and the argument it and its related passages throughout the text make. The First Epilogue and the conclusion of the narrative elements of the text will be covered shortly in a separate post. Yes, I'm posting this first, because I'd rather close by discussing the story than by waffling on about history and free will.
So, after all that, what Tolstoy leaves us with—the final thoughts he gives us—are of the illusory nature of free will, how it makes the science of history impossible, and why we’ll never understand the laws governing human behavior en masse, i.e., history, unless we abandon our attachment to it.
It seems to me that a little intellectual history is in order here for, even as Tolstoy would allow, writers, such as himself, are, to some extent, shaped by the ideas presented by the writers who live contemporaneously and previously to them. Indeed, if we take his argument seriously, Tolstoy’s argument is but…

And for 2014...

When I first started my Odyssey blog in January of 2012, I wasn't even sure I would finish it. I certainly didn't think that, two years later, having (almost) reached the conclusion of a second full year of blogging, this time on War and Peace, that I would be announcing the third year's project--my most ambitious yet.

I say the most ambitious yet, and, in terms of page count, that is absolutely true, because instead of reading one book by an author, we're reading all the completed major works by a single author. Unfortunately for readers, she only left us six completed novels when she died--a perfect number of perfect novels, as an old teacher of mine once wrote. Fortunately for readers, however, Jane Austen's six completed works are all among the greatest novels in English and will provide me with ample material to explicate and riff on in 2014.

This choice will not come as a surprise to anyone who knows me, as Austen is my favorite author, and I have read all of…

War and Peace 2013: Entry 22--Readings Twenty-Three and Twenty-Four

N.B.: This post will be discussing events through the end of Book IV, which means pretty much everything not in the Epilogues is fair game. So, spoilers, etc.

"Nothing remained for the representative of the national war but to die, and Kutuzov died."

Nothing remained for the novel but to end, and it ended. Rather abruptly, with little fanfare, and seemingly almost at random. Sure, there is still an epilogue--two, actually, but only one continues the story--to come, but that is, by definition, not part of the main thrust of the story. The story is told--the story of Napoleon's invasion of Russia, and Russia's almost emetic expulsion of the invader, is complete. Once Tolstoy has told that story--and, more important, presented his commentary on it--he quickly moves on. The fact that we, as readers, are probably more entangled in the lives of characters that in the movements of nations is secondary. As we'll see as we conclude the book--the First Epilogue wraps up the…