Pricking the solitude

Today’s book is War and Peace, the recent Pevear and Volokhonsky translation, hard cover, and weighing a ton. I read a few pages this spring, or right before winter broke. It was a Friday and I was waiting for V just before spending one of those glorious weekends with her. I was deliriously happy at that time, being in love with V and all. I did not pick it up again after that Friday night. In fact, I forgot all about it until this morning. Now, it seems right I should have it beside me.

I’ve read War and Peace several times, the Constance Garnett translation. Each time was a special time in my life. The first time was when I was 17 years old in the summer of 1965. Each morning when I woke, I would read for a good long spell. I read the whole of the James Bond novels that summer. After dispensing with those, I went to the public library and cast about for something else good to read. I was an aggressive reader for my age, so I hoisted War and Peace off the bookshelves, read some paragraphs at random, and gave it a try. I was hooked within 25 pages of it. The next time I read it was in the summer of 1971. The girlfriend with whom I lived that summer went to see her parents for two weeks before the start of summer semester at college. Being left to my own devices with nothing to do before summer semester began, I read War and Peace again. It was entirely different book on the second reading. I think each time we read a book we love it is a different book we read, for we have changed and with the change all language has changed, not with us, but by us. We hear what we want to hear.

There are other times too when I turned to the book in my solitude. It projects cacophony in the midst of silence.

Now that V is gone, my life admits no recognizable sound into it except the memory of her voice. I cannot express how lonely I am without her. Yet the void must be filled with something or else I would go mad if I am not already. In Europe, Proust broke the silence. Now, it simply must be Tolstoy.

Forgetting is the most impossible and hopeless task. I can only love V even though it is only her memory that lingers here. Two days ago, after a bout of illness, I felt a profound sense of peace and silence descend upon my soul when I woke. I feel it still. It is a different stage of loving V, the stage where only War and Peace can prick the desperate solitude I feel and help fill the void that is my soul.

Published in: on November 11, 2008 at 11:40 am  Leave a Comment  

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