War and Peace – Fiction, Truth and Reality

If I had just chosen to write my February post before the invasion of the Ukraine last week I would have written about my peaceful but busy existence on our Navasola woodland. And the coming of Spring with lots of bird activity, a range of butterflies and the rare wild daffodil, the Angel’s tear. I have also embarked on a reading challenge to read or for me re read War and Peace by Tolstoy. As I read it many years ago in my youth it was interesting to revisit and is also giving me some insight into the current crisis and the history of Europe.

View of Fuenteheridos and below a wild angel’s tear daffodil

One of the reasons I like the blogging world are the different experiences and connections that build up. One longstanding one is with Steve Schwartzman and Portrait of Wildflowers. Botany was the first link and then his incredible knowledge of Spanish and the research he did trying to find the origin of the name of our local village, Fuenteheridos. On the surface it looks like wounds- heridos and fuente, a source of water, spring. Inddeed the village is a source of much water through twelve springs. Steve found the old word ‘feridos’ which is to do with irrigation and taking turns and sharing the water. I am going to share Steve’s recent post as he suggested to show solidarity with the Ukraine. I found this very moving and beautifully written by his father, Jack Schwartzman about leaving his homeland. Lilacs for me were part of my childhood home and they will now also remind me of those who have had to leave their homes because of war and tyrants.

This is the link to the War and Peace 2022 reading Challenge of Rebecca Budd.

The characters and the Russian high culture at the time is as intriguing and involving as I found it when younger. Tolstoy is certainly so skilled at writing and can immerse the reader within these different worlds. However, I have been intrigued by the narration about the battles of the Austrian and Russian Army against Napoleon in 1805. There is an ease of moving between characters and events. I have selected a quote below as Tolstoy shows such insight into truth and integrity. And as we know ‘the first casualty of war is truth.’

“Rostov was an honest young man who would never tell a deliberate lie. He set out with every intention of describing exactly what had occurred, but imperceptibly, unconsciously and inevitably he drifted into falsehood. If he had told the truth to these two, who had heard as many descriptions of cavalry charges as he had, had their own clear idea of what a charge was like and were expecting something similar, either they wouldn’t have believed him, or worse still, they would have assumed it was Rostov’s fault for not managing to do what was normally done by narrators of cavalry charges. He couldn’t just tell them that they’d been trotting forward together when he fell off his horse, sprained his arm and then ran as hard as he could into a wood to get away from a Frenchman. Besides, to tell everything exactly as it happened would have demanded enough self-control to say only what happened and nothing else. To tell the truth is a very difficult thing, and young people are hardly ever capable of it. His listeners were expecting to hear him describe how he had felt himself burning with excitement, stormed the enemy’s square defences, oblivious to everything, hacked his way in, mown men down right, left and centre, tasted blood with his sabre before collapsing from exhaustion, and all the rest. And that’s what he did describe.”

And as we know ‘the first casualty of war is truth.’ It seems also in our 21st Century that peace has also created a culture of lies, mis and dis information and there is a need for truth and integrity. I think Tolstoy gets quite a lot right about his character Rostov but later we do find out that Prince Andrei Bolkonsky appears to see through this fiction that Rostov is compelled to make up.

But I do not think young people today are incapable of telling the truth. Many of the young climate activists are trying to get the adults to understand and take on board the truth about climate change. Today marks another warning about how the climate crisis is going to bring more of the chaos we are already experiencing if we do not act together.


Lilac with pearls and house and solar panels in background.

25 thoughts on “War and Peace – Fiction, Truth and Reality”

  1. Thanks for drawing attention to that lovely, pertinent and evocative essay by Jack Schwartzman. Also, I hadn’t realised you were part of the War and Peace read-along, as I am. I’m continuing to read it, though the project is suspended, in hopes it may offer me insights into Things Russian. In truth, it’s taken me quite a while to get into this book, and I’m reluctant to leave it now I’ve managed to do so.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks, Margaret. Thought I had replied but good you are continuing with War and Peace. I found Part 1 quite difficult too but I think at some point Tolstoy really brings you into this world and that was what I loved all those years ago when I had time for tomes like this!

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Hi Margaret – I am still on the #WarAndPeace2022 Readalong, which has become more profound given the current circumstances. The posts/updates have been suspended for the time, but I am fully engaged with Leo. We live within an world that has many twists and turns – we plan and then life happens. This is the War and Peace quote that I have embraced: “There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and trust.” Leo Tolstoy.

      By the way, I am listening to the audio, which is much easier than reading.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I’ve turned a corner with W&P, and am fully immersed. It somehow feels appropriate to read something which perhaps will illuminate Russia – even though set in different times – and present its citizens (or a certain tranche of them) in a more rounded way. A fine quotation. Does their leader know it, I wonder?

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  2. Thanks for the comment. It is indeed a poignant essay by Jack Schwartzman and so relevant to feel that loss of homeland because of war or terrible situations and oppression. I find the Russia of War and Peace hard to fathom as that high aristocratic society was possibly so similar across Europe. But Tolstoy does provide insights into more modern thinking for that time and into the tragedy and futility of war.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it is very sad for those in the Ukraine and in Europe there is growing tension about the way this invasion is proceeding. Your father’s words really express humanity and that terrible loss of homeland. Hope all well for you.

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  3. I am delighted that you have joined me on the #WarAndPeace2022 Readalong. I am listening to the audiobook of the Penguin Classic with the translation by Anthony Briggs. Leo Tolstoy has a marvelous way of weaving historical detail into the storyline. I read (Encyclopedia Britannica) that War and Peace set forth a theory of history which suggests that there is a minimum of free choice; all is ruled by inexorable historical determination. This thought has given me something to think about as I continue the Readalong. I am delighted we connected and look forward to many conversations!!

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    1. Delighted too. I am with a kindle Briggs translation but also have the option to shift to audible. I am impressed how Tolstoy seamlessly changes viewpoints and even changes side to Napoleon and his proclamation. At present am finding the war sections the most fascinating but feel the main characters have not really entered the fray!

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  4. Thank you for sharing Jack Schwartzman’s beautiful writing; I found it so very moving. I read War and Peace about 35 years ago and loved it. I am pleased you are having a good spring and oh! that beautiful tiny daffodil!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Clare. Yes sharing was just the right inspiration for the February post. Our lilacs come into bloom in March but the tiny wild daffodils are out in secret places. Seems there are cultivated versions too. Yes, War and Peace seems to grow on you if somewhat slowly for me this time but am now hooked. My memory holds impressions of characters. Thankfully I never watched the TV adaptation as I knew it was too short for this epic! Hope all going well for you.

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  5. Beautiful post, and thank you for sharing Jack Schwartzman’s post, I very much look forward to reading it. As for War and Peace, I read it while traveling on the Orient Express so many years ago ~ and absolutely loved the philosophy and diving into the ordinary processes of daily life of the times, and this is where history is created. Beautiful photos too 🙂 Thank you, and take care this weekend!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Events took over us so quickly and suddenly there was war. It seems strange to be doing ordinary things while it is happening, but those things are what people are fighting for. I’ve never read Tolstoy but I admire your efforts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it was a bizarre build up and so sad to develop into such a tragedy. Finally more rain has come here so we have to snuggle up inside. And wonder about those who have no place of safety. Take care of yourself. Good to hear from you.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Thank you for these insights. I pray that some day Russia will leave Ukraine alone. But I doubt it will happen as long as Putin is around. Your pictures were gorgeous. I never saw an angel tear before. I too love photography of nature. Keep up the good work of spreading truth and beauty,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, joyful2bee, I think there is solace in nature and one day Russia too will be free which of course will ensure the Ukraine can be at peace. But it looks like a long way off at the moment. Your blog too has the beauty of nature which we must protect and be inspired by.


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