Prince Andrei Bolkonsky Quotes in War and Peace
“There’s war now against Napoleon. If it were a war for freedom, I could understand it, I’d be the first to go into military service; but to help England and Austria against the greatest man in the world . . . is not right.”
Prince Andrei merely shrugged his shoulders at Pierre’s childish talk. He made it look as though he could not reply to such stupidity; but in fact it was hard to reply to this naive question in any other way than Prince Andrei had done.
“If everyone made war only according to his own convictions, there would be no war,” he said. […]
“Well, what makes you go to war?” asked Pierre.
“What makes me? I don’t know. I have to. Besides, I’m going . . .” He paused. “I’m going because this life I lead here, this life— is not for me!”
There was nothing over him now except the sky—the lofty sky, not clear, but still immeasurably lofty, with gray clouds slowly creeping across it. “How quiet, calm, and solemn, not at all like when I was running,” thought Prince Andrei, “not like when we were running, shouting, and fighting; not at all like when the Frenchman and the artillerist, with angry and frightened faces, were pulling at the swab— it’s quite different the way the clouds creep across this lofty, infinite sky. How is it I haven’t seen this lofty sky before? And how happy I am that I’ve finally come to know it. Yes! everything is empty, everything is a deception, except this infinite sky. There is nothing, nothing except that. But there is not even that, there is nothing except silence, tranquillity. And thank God!...”
“Voilà une belle mort,” said Napoleon, looking at Bolkonsky.
Prince Andrei understood that it had been said about him, and that it was Napoleon speaking. […] But he heard these words as if he was hearing the buzzing of a fly. He not only was not interested, he did not even notice, and at once forgot them. […] He knew that it was Napoleon— his hero— but at that moment, Napoleon seemed to him such a small, insignificant man compared with what was now happening between his soul and this lofty, infinite sky with clouds racing across it. To him it was all completely the same at that moment who was standing over him or what he said about him; he was only glad that people had stopped over him and only wished that those people would help him and bring him back to life, which seemed so beautiful to him, because he now understood it so differently.
“To live only so as not to do evil, so as not to repent, is too little. I used to live that way, I lived for myself, and I ruined my life. And only now, when I live, or at least try to live” (Pierre corrected himself out of modesty) “for others, only now have I understood all the happiness of life. No, I won’t agree with you, and you don’t really think what you’re saying.” Prince Andrei silently gazed at Pierre with a mocking smile.
“Maybe you’re right for yourself,” he went on after a brief pause, “[…] But I experienced the opposite. I used to live for glory. (What is glory? The same as love for others, the desire to do something for them, the desire for their praise.) So I lived for others and ruined my life— and not almost, but completely. And I’ve been at peace since I began living for myself alone.”
The old oak, quite transformed, spreading out a canopy of juicy, dark greenery, basked, barely swaying, in the rays of the evening sun. Of the gnarled fingers, the scars, the old grief and mistrust— nothing could be seen. Juicy green leaves without branches broke through the stiff, hundred-year-old bark, and it was impossible to believe that this old fellow had produced them. “Yes, it’s the same oak,” thought Prince Andrei, and suddenly a causeless springtime feeling of joy and renewal came over him. All the best moments of his life suddenly recalled themselves to him at the same time. Austerlitz with the lofty sky, and the dead, reproachful face of his wife, and Pierre on the ferry, and a girl excited by the beauty of the night, and that night itself, and the moon— all of it suddenly recalled itself to him.
On returning home, Prince Andrei began to recall his Petersburg life of those last four months as if it was something new. […] He recalled his work on legislation, the concern with which he had translated the articles of the Roman and French codes into Russian, and he felt ashamed of himself. Then he vividly pictured Bogucharovo, his occupations in the country, his trip to Ryazan, recalled the muzhiks, the headman Dron, and applying to them the personal rights he had classified by paragraphs, he felt astonished that he could have been occupied with such idle work for so long.
“Forgive me,” said Prince Andrei, “but you’re so young, and I’ve already experienced so much of this life. I fear for you. You don’t know yourself.”
Natasha listened with concentrated attention, trying to understand the meaning of his words, and not understanding.
“Hard as this year that postpones my happiness will be for me,” Prince Andrei went on, “during this time you will test yourself. I ask you to make me happy in a year; but you’re free: our engagement will remain a secret, and if you become convinced that you don’t love me, or that you love ...” Prince Andrei said with an unnatural smile.
“Why are you saying this?” Natasha interrupted him. “You know I’ve loved you from the very day you first came to Otradnoe,” she said, firmly convinced that she was speaking the truth.
The curtain rose again. Anatole left the box calm and cheerful. Natasha returned to her father’s box, now totally subjected to the world she was in. Everything that was happening before her now seemed perfectly natural to her; but instead all her former thoughts about her fiancé, about Princess Marya, about country life, never once entered her head, as if it was all long ago, long past.
In the fourth act there was a devil, who sang, waving his arm, until the boards were pulled out from under him, and he sank down below. That was all Natasha saw of the fourth act: something excited and tormented her, and the cause of it was Kuragin, whom she involuntarily followed with her eyes.
It is only because military men are clothed in splendor and power, and masses of scoundrels flatter power, endowing it with qualities of genius it does not have, that they are called geniuses. On the contrary, the best generals I knew were stupid or absentminded people. […] A good commander not only does not need genius or any special qualities, but, on the contrary, he needs the absence of the best and highest human qualities— love, poetry, tenderness, a searching philosophical doubt. […] The merit of success in military affairs does not depend on them, but on the man in the ranks who shouts ‘We’re lost!’ or shouts ‘Hurrah!’ And it is only in the ranks that one can serve with the assurance of being useful!
“Take no prisoners,” Prince Andrei went on. “That alone would change the whole war and make it less cruel. As it is, we’ve been playing at war— that’s the nasty thing, we act magnanimously and all that. It’s like the magnanimity and sentimentality of the lady who swoons when she sees a calf slaughtered […] We’re told about the rules of war, about chivalry, about parleying, sparing the unfortunate, and so on. It’s all nonsense. I saw chivalry and parleying in 1805: they cheated us, we cheated them. They loot other people’s houses, spread false banknotes, and worst of all— kill my children and my father, and then talk about the rules of war and magnanimity towards the enemy. […]
If there was none of this magnanimity in war, we’d go to it only when it was worth going to certain death, as now.”
In the unfortunate, sobbing, exhausted man whose leg had just been removed, he recognized Anatole Kuragin. […] Anatole was sobbing deeply. “Yes, it’s he; yes, this man is closely and painfully connected with me by something,” thought Prince Andrei, not yet understanding clearly what he saw before him. […] And suddenly a new and unexpected memory from the world of childhood, purity, and love came to Prince Andrei. He remembered Natasha as he had seen her for the first time at the ball in 1810, with her slender neck and arms, with her frightened, happy face ready for rapture, and in his soul love and tenderness for her awakened, stronger and more alive than ever. He now remembered the connection between him and this man, who was looking at him dully through the tears that filled his swollen eyes. Prince Andrei remembered everything, and a rapturous pity and love for this man filled his happy heart.
In those hours of suffering solitude and half delirium that he spent after being wounded, the more he pondered the new principle of eternal love revealed to him, the more, though without feeling it himself, he renounced earthly life. To love everything, everybody, always to sacrifice oneself for love, meant to love no one, meant not to live this earthly life. And the more imbued he was with this principle of love, the more he renounced life and the more completely he destroyed that dreadful barrier which, without love, stands between life and death. When, in that first time, he remembered that he had to die, he said to himself: “Well, so much the better.”
Morally bowed down and shutting their eyes to the menacing cloud of death that hung over them, they did not dare to look life in the face. They carefully protected their open wounds from any offensive, painful touch. Everything— a carriage driving quickly down the street, a reminder of dinner, a maid’s question about what dress to prepare; still worse, a word of insincere, weak sympathy— everything painfully irritated the wound, seemed offensive, and violated the necessary quiet in which they both tried to listen to the dread, stern choir not yet silenced in their imagination, and prevented them from peering into those mysterious, infinite distances which for a moment had opened before them.