Monday, June 21, 2010

Collage 98

Earlier this month, Lucy expressed some doubts about this project, saying said she had an uneasy feeling that we are somehow bluffing, and that the project has its questionable aspects.

What do you mean? What could be questionable about reading War and Peace and at the same time wrestling with its themes and art in this way? Are you concerned that we are somehow trivializing Tolstoy's great achievement? That we may be suggesting that our art is in anyway comparable to his? Or do you just feel uncomfortable about tearing up a copy of his great book? (If that's the case, bear in mind that this particular copy was printed on low quality paper in, I assume, the Soviet Union, and would have disintegrated all by itself fairly soon anyway).

On the other hand, one indisputable merit about this project is that it's driving several people to read and discuss Tolstoy's book in what looks to me like a thoughtful way.

This page of War and Peace has Bolkonsky in Bruenn. He has been sent there as a courier to deliver news of the Russian-Austrian victory at the Battle of Duerenstein (November 11, 1805). A few days later Bolkonsky will play an active role in the Battle of Hollabrunn, and two weeks after that he'll be gravely wounded at Austerlitz.

These actions are the first in War and Peace in which Tolstoy illustrates the different motivations that drive various participants in war. In Tolstoy's view, too many officers are interested mainly in currying favor with superiors and avoiding danger. The result is that the Russian and Austrian armies are disorganized and poorly led on the field, which leads to the disastrous defeat at Austerlitz.

Bolkonsky is the exception, an officer who cares about the war and the common soldiers. On this page, one can tell that he is embarrassed and impatient at the antics of some other officers and the diplomat Bilibin, who he visits in Bruenn. They are more concerned about about the pleasures of town (theatre, society, and women) and the presence of the Austrian Emperor than about the thousands of exhausted and ill-equipped soldiers nearby retreating from Napoleon's armies. -- Otto Mayr

Otto Mayr
from page 203-204 of original text
collage, acrylic paint
made 5/1/10

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