armyofsnails: (time snail)
[personal profile] armyofsnails
I've been watching BBC's recent, lavish production of War and Peace over the last couple of weeks. I had to read Tolstoy's gigantic novel as a kid growing up in Russia, as obligatory part of school curriculum; I hated it at the time. Tolstoy's writing did not resonate with me at all, not until I read Anna Karenina of my own volition years later, and then I *kind of* got it. Though as far as Russian classical writers were concerned, Dostoyevsky in my mind was always vastly superior to Tolstoy, and still is.

Anyway, BBC's version of War and Peace is beautiful and entirely anglicised. Despite mixed acting levels and sexualisation of the source material, I enjoyed the series. But having just finished the last episode, which portrayed the brutality of war, grief and loss unexpectedly well, I am now struck with a realisation that has never occurred to me before:

The reason we believe that adversity is supposed to bring us enlightenment, is because so much of humanity's creative output tells us so.

Much of Tolstoy's novel towards the end is about the transformative power of grief and about forgiveness; the main characters achieve a sort of personal enlightenment through it, become better people. Countless other works of literature, art and music focus on the same message, over and over again: that grief transforms you, makes you better, makes you care more for others, gives your life meaning. This message then permeates our culture and  makes us believe in this as a way of life, the way to be.

Trouble is, grief is not by its nature transformative. I know this now, as a 37-year-old adult who has so far been through some horrific, hair raising experiences. I honestly can't say any of it has made me a better person. The people close to me who have also been affected by these events, have only been made worse for it, much worse. Angrier, bitterer, more hating, more short-tempered, more broken, less forgiving. I can count on the fingers of one hand, those who seem to have become better through adversity - and this is only because their circumstances have improved with time and this has permitted them to relax.

So I don't know whether to dismiss those literary and artistic examples of transformation as beautiful bullshit that's moving to read but has no bearing on reality. Or whether to acknowledge that I'm missing something and not trying hard enough - even though surely telling someone who is grieving that they are not doing their best is just a tad inconsiderate.

I have more to say on the subject, some of it far too personal for this post. I don't really use this site anymore to record the details of my life. So I'll leave it at that for now. Maybe later I'll write more.

Date: 2016-04-18 06:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Dostoyevsky is superior to Tolstoy to everyone!!! Because it takes only one hypothetical row of brain circuits to read Tolstoy, and to read Dostoyevsky one has to employ at least two rows; I dare say first and third or fourth...

I found those two Tolstoy's books the opposite way. I had to read Ana Karenina at school and found its romanticism annoying, and its simplicity insulting. I took up War and peace to read on a whim - actually my grandmother's copy by her wise recommendation at a time when I was somehow distressed - and I loved it because of it's soothingly simple narrative as I had trouble focusing on anything, and because it was detached of romance and even scorned emotions. And maybe because the story was told in broad larger-than-life rationalizing perspective that I found comforting somehow.

Date: 2016-04-18 08:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
OMG you are still here!
Getting your comment was like hearing from an old friend. Made my evening.

I really miss Livejournal. I've not been able to find a platform that had the same format and vibe as this place, which is sad. Most of my friends use FB these days, which I find too shallow and too fast moving.

Anyway, hope you are doing OK, and life is still bringing you sweet offerings every now and then. :)

Coming back to Tolstoy, perhaps it's reading it when you are old enough to appreciate it, that gives the classic novel a different light? If so, I should probably re-read War and Peace! (Eeee!!)

Date: 2016-04-18 08:38 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I sign in a few times a year hoping someone sneaked up the same way and left a trace.
I deleted FB a few years ago. And I've acquired taste for the life's offerings that I get, and I guess tools to pick out the sweet stuff?! Hehe!

My friends pushed me to see this children's film: today - its a funny story about harmless hardship which isn't transformative. Alas... my head has gone through a true s/m transformative roller coaster in the last few years, that I'm quite dissoriented whether head is a good place to do one's thinking at all...

Date: 2016-04-27 09:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oops... I thought I posted a reply to this as well.

Anyway - lovely to exchange a few words / comments with you too!!! I miss livejournal too, but I think it's a closed chapter in my head and life - the whole concept of sharing one's thoughts and life to some degree with distant online friends ( "friends"?! it's neither friends nor acquaintances, nor even internet friends ) . I am simply too old for virtual confidantes, too poor to spend time online, and too bitter to let myself talk/write much anymore :P.

I do miss it too. I'll still post an update every half a year or so to test echo like this and catch a comment from an old internet friend, and look out for the same.


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