Nº. 1 of  17

Random Utterances

Things read or heard that are worth remembering.

Learning that Bezukhov was in Orel, Willarski, though he had never been closely acquainted with him, came to him with declarations of friendship and intimacy, such as people usually express to each other when they meet in the desert.

Leo Tolstoy | War and Peace | trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky | p. 1106

The Russians, dying by half, did all they could do and should have done to achieve an aim worthy of the nation, and are not to blame if other Russian people, sitting in warm rooms, proposed doing what was impossible.

Leo Tolstoy | War and Peace | trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky | p. 1074

The whole profound plan of cutting off and capturing Napoleon and his army was like the plan of a farmer who, while driving out the cattle who were trampling his vegetable garden, would run to the gate and start beating those cattle on the head. The one thing that might be said to justify the farmer is that he was very angry. But it would be impossible to say even that about the devisers of this project, because it was not they who suffered from the trampled vegetable patch.

Leo Tolstoy | War and Peace | trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky | p. 1072–1073

     And it never enters anyone’s head that the recognition of a greatness not measurable by the measure of good and bad is only a recognition of one’s own insignificance and immeasurable littleness.
     For us, with the measures of good and bad given us by Christ, nothing is immeasurable. And there is no greatness where there is no simplicity, goodness, and truth.

Leo Tolstoy | War and Peace | trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky | p. 1070–1071

And, lastly, the final departure of the great emperor from his heroic army is presented to us by historians as something great and marked by genius. Even this final act of flight, known in human language as the final degree of baseness, which every child is taught to be ashamed of, even this act receives justification in the language of the historians.

Leo Tolstoy | War and Peace | trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky | p. 1070

They all went, not knowing themselves where they were going or why. The genius Napoleon knew still less than others, since no one gave him orders. But even so he and his entourage observed their long-standing habits: wrote orders, letters, reports, the ordre du jour; addressed each other as Sire, Mon Cousin, Prince d’Eckmühl, roi de Naples, and so on. But the orders and reports existed only on paper, nothing was carried out according to them, because nothing could be carried out, and despite their calling themselves majesties, highnesses, and cousins, they all felt that they were pathetic and vile people who had done a great deal of evil, for which they now had to pay. And despite their pretence of looking after the army, each of them thought only of himself and of how to get away quickly and save himself.

Leo Tolstoy | War and Peace | trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky | p. 1068

     And suddenly a long-forgotten, meed old teacher, who had taught him geography in Switzerland, emerged in Pierre’s mind as if alive. ‘Wait!’ said the old man. And he showed Pierre a globe. This globe was a living, wavering ball of no dimensions. The entire surface of the ball consisted of drops tightly packed together. And these drops all moved and shifted, and now merged from several into one, now divided from one into many. Each drop strove to spread and take up the most space, but the others, striving to do the same, pressed it, sometimes destroying, sometimes merging with it.
     ‘This is life,’ said the old teacher.

—Leo Tolstoy | War and Peace | trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky | p. 1064–1065

In captivity, in the shed, Pierre had learned, not with his mind, but with his whole being, his life, that man is created for happiness, that happiness is within him, in the satisfying of natural human needs, and that all unhappiness comes not from lack, but from superfluity; but now, in these last three weeks of the march, he had learned a new and more comforting truth—he had learned that there is nothing frightening in the world. He had learned that, as there is no situation in the world in which a man can be happy and perfectly free, so there is no situation in which he can be perfectly unhappy and unfree.

Leo Tolstoy | War and Peace | trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky | p. 1060

When a man finds himself in motion, he always thinks up a goal for that motion. In order to walk a thousand miles, a man needs to think that there is something good at the end of those thousand miles. One needs a vision of the promised land in order to have the strength to move.

Leo Tolstoy | War and Peace | trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky | p. 1028

Why should this army, which found abundant provisions in Moscow and could not keep them, but trampled them underfoot, this army which, on coming to Smolensk, did not distribute provisions, but looted them—why should this army have been able to set itself to rights in Kaluga province, populated by the same Russians as in Moscow and where fire had the same property of burning up what was set aflame?

—Leo Tolstoy | War and Peace | trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky | p. 1027

Nº. 1 of  17