More on the War and Peace Challenge

This short War and Peace post is a diversion from the actual text of the novel, being a clip from the 1956 film version of Tolstoy’s novel. I’ve never seen a screen version of War and Peace so recently I trawled  YouTube to investigate what adaptations had been made. Imagine the delight of a Audrey Hepburn fan on finding that the future the star of My Fair Lady (1964) once played the part of Natasha Rostov. I’m not sure that she was right for the role (possibly an unfair observation given that I’ve neither finished the book nor yet seen the film) but in the snatches that I’ve looked at she’s never less than as delightful as usual.

The clip below is taken from the scene depicting her first ball and her first dance with Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, which is the part I had got up to reading last night:

Having read that scene last night, I’d say that the filmed version doesn’t really capture Natasha’s experience of the ball or her emotions on dancing with Andrei; very Hollywood-ish. Neither am I convinced by Mel Ferrer as Andrei, though perhaps he was cast in the part as he was Hepburn’s husband at the time.

Meanwhile I am loving the novel, though I have broken it up with another couple of library reads. I’ll do a more detailed post next time.

Now all I want for Christmas is….

YouTube credits: uploaded on 17/5/12 (Movieclips)

War and Peace was directed by King Vidor and produced by Carlo Ponti

The First Bulletin on War and Peace

As I’m sure my readers will be pleased to know, my War and Peace challenge is making relatively good progress. Note that I’m hedging a bit here by using the word ‘relatively’ to describe my rate of reading. I have actually reached page eighty-five and I’m at the point where Count Bezuhov has suffered his sixth stroke and is not expected to live. Naturally enough the heirs presumptive are getting anxious as they can see a fortune slipping from their hands into those of Bezuhov’s illegitimate son Pierre.  I wonder what skullduggery may be afoot in the aftermath of the count’s death.

First Edition of War and Peace

First Edition, 1869

Already many aspects of human nature have popped up during the drama; I’ve met a diverse cast of characters in the action occurring between Moscow and St Petersburg. Not surprisingly I was rather taken with the younger players in the story, who were enjoying (and suffering) their first pangs of love. Natasha Rostov is delightful and I am almost apprehensive about what vicissitudes her life will throw at her, but I’m trying not to leap ahead and plot spoil for myself. I’ve never seen a film version of War and Peace and I’m studiously avoiding plot summaries that I’ve come across.

The thing that I find particularly fascinating is the sheer number of princes and princesses in the novel, to the extent that I’m tempted to try to find out just how many there were in Imperial Russia at that time. It also seems that having the title of prince or princess didn’t necessarily mean that you were wealthy. Having consulted Wikipedia, I’ve discovered that the titles of prince and princess belong to the titled nobility (which could be acquired) as opposed to the ancient hereditary nobility. Wikipedia goes on to point out that,

By 1805, the various ranks of the nobility had become confused, as is apparent in War and Peace. Here, we see counts who are wealthier and more important than princes. We see many noble families whose wealth has been dissipated, partly through lack of primogeniture and partly through extravagance and poor estate management. We see young noblemen serving in the Army, but we see none who acquire new landed estates that way’.  

A Noble Assembly

Nobles in the time of Catherine the Great

So presumably that accounts for poor old Princess Anna Drubetskoy desperately trying to obtain a placement and funding for her son Boris. This little bit is quite telling, ‘The mother smoothed her dyed silk gown, glanced at herself in the massive Venetian mirror on the wall and briskly mounted the carpeted staircase in her down-at-heel shoes’. A few lines above, her cloak is described as ‘threadbare’ which is noticed by a sharp-eyed servant.

I’m going to dive back into Imperial Russia now, having had a short break to finish a couple of library books, so I’ll hope to post up again soon with a further update.

Back soon….and if anyone else is tackling a hefty tome at the moment please let us know about it!

Picture Credits: Thanks to Wikipedia for the illustrations.