Fleas, Crickets, Grasshoppers

Day 137 of A Year of War and Peace

Sometimes knowing what you want doesn’t make it any more likely that you’ll get it. Some things just aren’t meant to be like living forever, having a conversation with a fruit fly, or sex after marriage. The best response to confrontation with such impossibility is acceptance. Or you could pull a Natasha.

Natasha, like all children at Christmas time, has a list of gifts that she wants. Unfortunately, her list consists of only one wish and that wish is to be with Andrei. As we learned in the previous chapter, however, Andrei has had to delay his return to Russia because while in Rome his old war wound opened up again.

Natasha’s response to this setback isn’t a virtuous one. It’s actually quite petulant. She bandies about the house ordering the poor serfs around on pointless errands and busywork. Her behavior is so asinine that, by comparison, it’s the buffoon, Nastasya Ivanovna, who emerges as the most sensible character of the chapter. When Natasha asks him the impossible question of what her future children will be like he responds, “Fleas, crickets, grasshoppers.”

When she finally tires of bossing the serfs around she retires to the ballroom where she strums a guitar. The sounds she produces, like Proust’s madeleine, launch her into an involuntary revery of her lost love of Andrei.

So she ends the chapter, much as she began it, in sobs. She didn’t have to though.

DAILY MEDITATION

He is unreasonable who is grieved (troubled) at the things which happen from the necessity of nature.
Epictetus, Enchiridion

This is the one hundred and thirty-seventh installment in a daily, yearlong, chapter-by-chapter reading devotional and meditation on Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. For more information on this project please read the introduction to the series here.

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