[If you’re wondering what a “preceptorial” is, please visit this post first.]
Impressive in physical, not to mention philosophical weight, Count Lyov Nikolayevich Tolstoy’s War and Peace is not for the faint of heart. You could say he tried to encapsulate all his native Russia from the year 1805 to 1819 — the Russian government, the Russian intellegentsia, the Russian military, the Russian orthodoxy, the Russian haves and the Russian have-nots — and he succeeded with half a million words. While it’s known mostly as a metonymy for the bookworm’s heavy hardback, for students this fall, War and Peace will become an epic drama played out over the course of sixteen weeks, where Napoleon Bonaparte himself has a speaking part.
In fact, it’s just this balance between the sweep of what’s greater than us and the stir of what’s greatest within us that makes Tolstoy’s work more than worth the read. Mr. Townsend, the tutor who elected to guide students through the work, had this to say:
“War and Peace may be the greatest novel yet written — a titanic mosaic of fiction, history, psychology, spirit, and philosophy. Tolstoy asks, are we to remain whole as we struggle with dialectics of love and rage, poverty and abundance? How do individuals affect historical events? The reader feels every scene deeply, intimately, and essentially. Tolstoy asks, why do we do what we do? Who or what is at work as the agency of our freedom?
An array of unforgettable characters struggling with the challenges of coming-of-age provide models, warnings, and guidance, including Pierre, Andrei, Natasha, Marya, Nicholai, Sonya, Helene, Boris, Vera, and Berg. You will find yourself in one or more of these rounded personalities. The book is rich in philosophical and spiritual reflection depicted in these characters as well as in the thinking of Platon, the leadership of Kutuzov, the Masonic generosity of Bazdeyev, the parenting comparisons of the aged Vasilly, Counts Bolkonsky, Bezukhov, and Rostov.
How are we to live? To love? To be present to the beauty of the world?”