Quotes from Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”

DVD Savant Review: War and Peace (1967)

Andre, the night before his first battle: “Tomorrow everything may be over for me! All these memories will be no more, none of them will have any meaning for me…I don’t know what will happen and don’t want to know, and can’t, but if I want this–want glory, want to be known to men, want to be loved by them, it is not my fault that I want it and want nothing but that and only live for that. Yes for that alone!… All the same, I love and value nothing but triumph over them all. I value this mystic power and glory that is floating here above me in this mist!”

Thoughts of Andre’s wife pathetically dying in childbirth: “I love you all, and have done no harm to anyone; and what have you done to me?”

“Forever? said Andre. “Nothing’s forever.”

Andre: “It is not given to man to know what is right or wrong to man. Men always did and always will err, and in nothing more than what they consider right or wrong.”

Andre: “I only know two very real evils in life: remorse and illness. The only good is the absence of those evils.”

Andre: “So I lived for others, and not almost, but quite, ruined my life. And I have become calmer since I began to live for only myself.”

“‘Spring, love, happiness!’ this oak seemed to say. ‘Are you not weary of that stupid, meaningless, constantly repeated fraud?’….
‘Yes, the oak is right, a thousand times right,’ thought Andrei. ‘Let others–the young–yield afresh to that fraud, but we know life, our life is finished!’….
During this journey, he, as it were, considered his life afresh, and arrived at his old conclusion. restful in its hopelessness: that it was not for him to begin anything anew–but that he must live out his life, content to do no harm, and not disturbing himself or desiring anything.”

Returning later and beholding the dead-looking oak covered in leaves, after he has fallen for Natasha: “‘No, life is not over at thirty-one!’….’It is not enough for me to know what I have in me–everyone must know it: Pierre, and that young girl [Natasha] who wanted to fly away into the sky, everyone must know me, so that my life may not be lived for myself alone while others live so apart from it, but but so that it may be reflected in them all, and they and I may live in harmony!”

Andre, before another battle: ” To die…to be killed tomorrow…That I should not exist…That all this should still be, but no me….”

Thoughts of Andrei approaching death: “Love? What is Love? Love hinders death. Love is life. All, everything is, everything exists, only because I love. Everything is united by it alone. Love is God, and to die means that I, a particle of love, shall return to the general and eternal source.”

“But at the instant he died, Andrei remembered that he was asleep, and at the very instant he died, having made an effort, he awoke.
‘Yes, it was death! I died–and woke up. Yes, death is an awakening!’                                           And all at once it grew light in his soul and the veil that had till then concealed the unknown was lifted from his spiritual vision. He felt as if powers till then confined within him had been liberated, and that strange lightness did not again leave him.”


Context and comment: Andre’s process moves him from vainglorious egoic thoughts to pessimistic cynicism to regained purpose and acceptance in life via love.

In the end, despite the war raging on, he is far removed from all conflicts, dying at home surrounded by loved ones, finally and consciously freed.

(The feeling of lightness had been first experienced on his first battlefield as he lay shot and musing, assumed dead by others, initially.)

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