Sunday, March 27, 2011

German Efficiency?

"When Germans start being accurate, there’s no end to it!"

~ Prince Andréi Nikoláevich Bolkónsky, War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy


"In a costume she used to wear in Petersburg society, it was still more noticeable how far she had lost her good looks." (Regarding Liza, Princess Elizavéta Kárlovna Bolkónsky)

"She was so plain that the thought of rivalry with her did not occur to either of them; they therefore undertook to dress her up in all sincerity, with that naïve and firm conviction of women that clothes can make a face beautiful." (Regarding Marie, Princess Márya Nikoláevich Bolkónsky)

~ War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy

Thursday, March 24, 2011


"Princess Hélène was smiling; she got up with the same unchanging smile of a perfectly beautiful woman with which she had entered the drawing room. Lightly rustling her white ball gown trimmed with ivy and moss, her white shoulders gleaming, her hair and diamonds shining, she walked straight on between the parted men, not looking at anyone, but smiling to everyone, and as if kindly granting each of them the right to admire the beauty of her figure, her full shoulders, her very exposed bosom and back, as the fashion then was, and, as if bringing with her the brilliance of a ball, approached Anna Pavlovna. Hélène was so good-looking that there was not only not a trace of coquetry to be seen in her, but, on the contrary, it was as if she was embarrassed by her unquestionable and all too strongly and triumphantly effective beauty. It was as if she wished but was unable to diminish the effect of her beauty."

~ Regarding Princess Eléna Vassílievna Kurágin (Hélène), War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy

Progress 2

15% through War and Peace!

Originally posted March 23rd, 2011


"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known."

~ Carl Sagan
Information in the form of energy
Streams in simultaneously
Through all of our sensory systems

And then it explodes into this enormous collage
Of what this present moment looks like
What it feels like
And what it sounds like

And then it explodes into this enormous collage
And in this moment we are perfect
We are whole and we are beautiful
~ Jill Bolte Taylor, from the Symphony of Science video, Ode to the Brain!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Line

"They were separated by an empty space of about six hundred yards. The enemy stopped shooting, and that strict, menacing, inaccessible, and elusive line that separates two enemy armies became all the more clearly felt.

"'One step beyond that line, reminiscent of the line separating the living from the dead, and it's the unknown, suffering, and death. And what is there? who is there? there, beyond this field, and the tree, and the roof lit by the sun? No one knows, and you would like to know; and you’re afraid to cross that line, and would like to cross it; and you know that sooner or later you will have to cross it and find out what is there on the other side of the line, as you will inevitably find out what is there on the other side of death. And you’re strong, healthy, cheerful, and excited, and surrounded by people just as strong and excitedly animated.' So, if he does not think it, every man feels who finds himself within sight of an enemy, and this feeling gives a particular brilliance and joyful sharpness of impression to everything that happens in those moments."

~ War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy

Progress 1

Part one, book one of War and Peace complete! 9% through!

Originally posted March 5th, 2011

The Good

"As Sterne says: 'We love people not so much for the good they’ve done us, as for the good we’ve done them.'"

Footnote: "The English writer Laurence Sterne (1713-68) had a marked influence on the young Tolstoy, particularly with his Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy (1768), which stands behind Tolstoy's first piece of fiction, "A History of Yesterday" (1851), and part of which Tolstoy translated. Sterne's novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1760-67) has been seen as a formal precursor of War and Peace.

~ War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

This quote reminds me of a legend, which I believe was about Benjamin Franklin, in which he wishes to befriend a certain antagonistic senator, and does so by asking for a book from his library and returning the book weeks later with a friendly note thanking him for the book. The next time he encounters the senator, instead of the usual animosity, he is greeted as a friend.

Funny Play on German

"Moreau would have been captured if Suvorov had had a free hand; but he had the Hofs-kriegs-wurst-schnapps-rath on his hands."

Footnote: "The old prince makes fun of the Austrian Court Council of War (Hofkriegsrath), and of the German language, by calling it the "Court-war-sausage-schnapps-council."

~ Prince Nikolái Andréevich Bolkónsky, War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

Virtue and Vice

"He used to say that there were only two sources of human vice: idleness and superstition; and that there were only two virtues: activity and intelligence."

~ Regarding Prince Nikolái Andréevich Bolkónsky, War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy

Liza's Thoughts on War

"How stupid you all are, men, ... Forgive me, but you understand nothing about women."

"I don't understand, I decidedly do not understand, why men can't live without war. Why is it that we women want none of it and have no need of it?"

~ Princess Elizavéta Kárlovna Bolkónsky, née Meinen (Liza), War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy

Funny Typo

"Who goes to the dry land when they diet?"

~ Tehanu, quoting Ged, The Other Wind, Ursula K. Le Guin

Note: The "dry land" is the land of the dead in the Earthsea series. The correct line is "Who goes to the dry land when they die?"

Human Division

‎"The real human division is this: the luminous and the shady. To diminish the number of the shady, to augment the number of the luminous—that is the object. That is why we cry: Education! Science! To teach reading, means to light the fire; every syllable spelled out sparkles.

"However, he who says light does not, necessarily, say joy. People suffer in the light; excess burns. The flame is the enemy of the wing. To burn without ceasing to fly—therein lies the marvel of genius.

"When you shall have learned to know, and to love, you will still suffer. The day is born in tears. The luminous weep, if only over those in darkness."

~ Les Miserables, Victor Hugo