War and Peace; Halfway Surpassed

July 14, 2008

The 1968 Soviet film version of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, directed by Sergei Bondarchuk, has always scared me off, even though I’ve made a point to try and watch every major film ever made. So far, I’ve pretty much succeeded in that, except for this particular, seemingly daunting 7-plus-hour film. Well, being on track to complete the reading of the book within the next two weeks, possibly even by next weekend, the movie should be a breeze—now that I have an intimate familiarity with the myriad characters and plots and historical background. I reached page 664 on Saturday night, July 12, at the point where Pierre feels reinvigorated by his feelings toward Natasha and his sighting of the 1812 comet. It was a beautiful, poetic ending to the half; somewhat revitalizing given that the book seemed headed for inertia. But the second half, devoted entirely, it seems, to the cataclysmic events of 1812 has been fairly exciting by contrast. By my Monday morning bus ride to work I had reached page 814 and am barreling toward the 3/4 mark of the book. That means I could conceivably finish it by next weekend. Anyway, I probably won’t spend a lot of time in reflection because too many other books are calling. I can’t wait to read Raymond Queneau’s Zazie in the Metro, Graham Greene’s The Comedians, Nathanael West’s Miss Lonelyhearts and a whole bunch of others. I’m also within a day of finishing Neil Gabler’s excellent biography of Walter Winchell (Winchell), which, oddly, has taken me a lot longer to read than War and Peace, and it is only 530 or so pages long. Till the next… -EG

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