This post will not be as long as my other ones, but it definitely moved me.
War and Peace, A New Translation by Anthony Briggs, Afterword by Orlando Figes
Page 61, short section preceding Chapter 15.
“‘Oh, my dear count, money, money, money – how much trouble it causes in this world!’ said the countess. ‘But I do need it very much.’
‘My sweet little countess, everybody knows you’re a shocking spendthrift,’ said the count, who then kissed his wife’s hand and went back to his own room.
When Anna Mikhaylovna returned from the Bezukhovs the countess had the money ready under a handkerchief on her little table, all in crisp new notes. Anna Mikhaylovna could see something was worrying her.
‘Well how did you get on, my dear?’ asked the countess.
‘Oh, he’s in a dreadful state! Unrecognizable. He’s so ill, so ill…I was only there for a minute, and I hardly said a thing.’
‘Annette, for heaven’s sake, please don’t refuse,’ the countess blurted out with a blush that looked rather odd on her [aging], thin, aristocratic face as she produced the money from under the cloth. Immediately understanding, Anna Mikhaylovna leant forward, ready to embrace when the moment came.
‘This is for Boris, from me, to get him kitted out…’
Anna Mikhaylovna’s arms were round her. She was weeping, and the countess wept too. They wept for their friendship, their kindheartedness and the unfortunate need for lifelong friends to soil their hands with anything as sordid as money, and they wept also for their lost youth..But the tears of both women were sweet…”
Not too long of a passage, but the content that is within deeply moved me. Although I am not familiar with economic troubles in Tolstoy’s time, the message between the lines strikes me profoundly. Too often nowadays, we find ourselves “spotting” our friends and having to do with money as a source of friendship, but little do we experience the purity of friendship that is untainted by money. Though surely none of us can call ourselves counts or countesses, Tolstoy’s words provide me with ample food for thought. The passage, to me, portrays one of the most beautiful friendships encountered in a human’s life, and though the two women wept, their tears were sweet; no hard feelings between them. In the beginning of a book titled ‘War and Peace,’ I’d say this book purveys much more than meets the eye, so it is meet for me to take my time with this book, and fully indulge in the work of one of the greatest Russian authors that history has witnessed.
A friendship in the halcyon days of youth is to be desired; a friendship purged of any impurity is to be dreamt of.
p.s. I greatly encourage you to read Divine and Human and Other Works; though the times are different from ours, Tolstoy is a wonderful storyteller, infusing his works with numerous characters, and the short stories are deeply touching.