‘War & Peace’ by Leo Tolstoy

  • One more martyr in heaven, one less hero on earth.
  • Opinions are opinions but you see what a good nice fellow I am.
  • If everyone made war only according to his own convictions, there would be no war.
  • Never, never marry, my friend. Here’s my advice to you: don’t marry until you can tell yourself that you’ve done all you could, and until you’ve stopped loving the woman you’ve chosen, until you see her clearly, otherwise you’ll be cruelly and irremediably mistaken. Marry when you’re old and good for nothing…Otherwise all that’s good and lofty in you will be lost. It will all go on trifles. Yes, yes, yes! Don’t look at me with such astonishment. If you expect something from yourself in the future, then at every step you’ll feel that it’s all over for you, it’s all closed, except the drawing room, where you’ll stand on the same level as a court flunkey and an idiot…Ah, well!…
  • My wife is a wonderful woman. She’s one of those rare women with whom one can be at ease regarding one’s own honor; but, my God, what wouldn’t I give now not to be married! You’re the first and only one I’m saying this to, because I love you.
  • Egoism, vanity, dull-wittedness, triviality in everything—that’s women, when they show themselves as they are. Looking at them in society, it seems there’s something there, but there’s nothing, nothing, nothing! No, don’t marry, dear heart, don’t marry.
  • … Was at that sweet age when a girl is no longer a child, but the child is not yet a young lady.
  • Cousinhood is a dangerous neighborhood.
  • I make it a rule to say everything directly.
  • After-dinner nap was silver, but a before-dinner nap was gold.
  • Bonaparte was born lucky. He has excellent soldiers. And the Germans were the first he attacked. You’d have to be a do-nothing not to beat the Germans. Ever since the world began, everybody’s beaten the Germans. And they’ve beaten nobody. Except each other. It was on them he earned his glory.
  • I cannot, have not, and never will reproach my wife for anything, nor can I reproach myself for anything in relation to her; and that will always be so, whatever circumstances I find myself in. But if you want to know the truth…if you want to know whether I’m happy? No. Is she happy? No. Why is that? I don’t know…
  • If you’re are killed, I, your father will be pained. But if I learn that you have not behaved like Nikolai Bolkonsky’s son, I will be ashamed!
  • General, I am duty-bound to obey orders, but I am not duty-bound to put up with insults.
  • One could see that he fulfilled his duties as a subordinate with still greater pleasure than his duties as a superior.
  • He so constantly heard the words: “With your extraordinary kindness,” or “With your excellent heart,” or “You yourself, Count, are so pure…,” or “If he were as intelligent as you are,” and so on, that he was sincerely beginning to believe in his extraordinary kindness and his extraordinary intelligence, the more so because, deep in his heart, it had always seemed to him that he really was very kind and very intelligent.
  • She was so plain that the thought of rivalry with her did not occur to either of them; they therefore undertook to dress her up in all sincerity, with that naïve and firm conviction of women that clothes can make a face beautiful.
  • He told them about his Schöngraben (battle) action in just the way that those who take part in battles usually tell about them, that is, in the way they would like it to have been, the way they have heard others tell it, the way it could be told more beautifully, but not at all the way it had been.
  • Ah, my dear general, I’m involved in rice and cutlets, involve yourself in matters of war.
  • And I shot at Dolokhov because I considered myself insulted. And Louis XVI was executed because he was considered a criminal, and a year later those who executed him were also killed for something. What is bad? What is good? What should one love, what hate? Why live, and what am I? What is life, what is death? What power rules over everything?
  • You will die—and everything will end. You will die and learn everything—or stop asking. But to die was also frightening.
  • We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.
  • Can I receive this pure liquid in an impure vessel and then judge its purity? Only by purifying myself inwardly can I keep the liquid I receive pure to some degree.
  • The supreme wisdom is based not on reason alone, not on the secular sciences of physics, history, chemistry, and so on, into which rational knowledge is divided. The higher knowledge has one science—the science of the all, the science that explains the whole universe and the place man occupies in it. To contain this science, it is necessary to purify and renew one’s inner man, and thus before one can know, one must believe and perfect oneself. And to achieve that, a divine light, called conscience, has been put in our soul.
  • To transmit to the seeker the seven virtues, corresponding to the seven steps of Solomon’s temple, which every Mason was supposed to cultivate in himself. These virtues were: (1) discretion, keeping the secrets of the order; (2) obedience to the higher ranks of the order; (3) good morals; (4) love of mankind; (5) courage; (6) generosity; and (7) love of death.
  • I lived for myself, and I ruined my life. And only now, when I live, or at least try to live for others, only now have I understood all the happiness of life.
  • You lived for yourself and you say with that you almost ruined your life, and knew happiness only when you began to live for others. But I experienced the opposite. I used to live for glory. (What is glory? The same as love for others, the desire to do something for them, the desire for their praise.) So I lived for others and ruined my life—and not almost, but completely. And I’ve been at peace since I began living for myself alone.
  • Isn’t everything I think and believe sheer nonsense?
  • Talking about the legislative commission, Speransky told Prince Andrei ironically that this commission had existed for a hundred and fifty years, had cost millions, and had done nothing, except that Rosenkampf had glued little labels to all the articles of comparative legislation.
  • One must believe in the possibility of happiness in order to be happy, and I now believe in it. Let the dead bury their dead, but while I’m alive, I must live and be happy.
  • I’ve observed that the less attractive the woman, the more constant she is.
  • And what is justice? The princess never thought about this proud word justice. All the complicated laws of mankind were concentrated for her in one simple and clear law—the law of love and self-denial taught us by Him who suffered for mankind with love, though He Himself was God. What did the justice or injustice of other people matter to her? She herself had to suffer and to love, and that she did.
  • However, a great number of monasteries and churches is always a sign of a nation’s backwardness. (said Napoleon)
  • Only Germans can be, and precisely because only Germans can be self-assured on the basis of an abstract idea—science, that is, an imaginary knowledge of the perfect truth. A Frenchman is self-assured because he considers himself personally, in mind as well as body, irresistibly enchanting for men as well as women. An Englishman is self-assured on the grounds that he is a citizen of the best-organized state in the world, and therefore, as an Englishman, he always knows what he must do, and knows that everything he does as an Englishman is unquestionably good. An Italian is self-assured because he is excitable and easily forgets himself and others. A Russian is self-assured precisely because he does not know anything and does not want to know anything, because he does not believe it possible to know anything fully. A German is self-assured worst of all, and most firmly of all, and most disgustingly of all, because he imagines that he knows the truth, science, which he has invented himself, but which for him is the absolute truth.
  • The thoughts he often used to have long ago, during the time of his military activity, that there was not and could not be any military science, and therefore there could not be any so-called military genius, now acquired for him the perfect evidence of truth. What theory and what science could there be in a matter of which the conditions and circumstances are unknown and cannot be determined, in which the strength of those active in war can still less be determined? No one could or can know what position our own and the enemy army will be in a day later, and no one can know the strength of this or that detachment. Sometimes, when there’s no coward at the head who shouts ‘We’re cut off!’ and runs away, but a cheerful, bold man who shouts ‘Hurrah!’—a detachment of five thousand is worth thirty thousand, as at Schöngraben, and sometimes fifty thousand flee in the face of eight, as at Austerlitz. What science can there be in a matter in which, as in any practical matter, nothing can be determined and everything depends on countless circumstances, the significance of which is determined at a certain moment, and no one knows when that moment will come?
  • And why do they all talk about military genius? Is that man a genius who manages to order a timely delivery of biscuits and tells this one to go right and that one to go left? It is only because military men are clothed in splendor and power, and masses of scoundrels’ flatter power, endowing it with qualities of genius it does not have, that they are called geniuses. On the contrary, the best generals I knew were stupid or absentminded people. Bagration was the best—Napoleon himself recognized that. And Bonaparte himself! I remember his self-satisfied and limited face on the battlefield at Austerlitz. A good commander not only does not need genius or any special qualities, but, on the contrary, he needs the absence of the best and highest human qualities—love, poetry, tenderness, a searching philosophical doubt. He should be limited, firmly convinced that what he is doing is very important (otherwise he would not have patience enough), and only then will he be a brave commander. God forbid he should be a human being and come to love or pity someone, or start thinking about hat is just and what isn’t. Understandably, the theory of genius was cut to fit them of old, because they are—power. The merit of success in military affairs does not depend on them, but on the man in the ranks who shouts ‘We’re lost!’ or shouts ‘Hurrah!’ And it is only in the ranks that one can serve with the assurance of being useful!”
  • When a child hurts himself, he runs at once to his mother’s or nanny’s arms, to have the hurt place kissed and rubbed, and he feels better once the hurt place is kissed or rubbed. The child does not believe that those who are stronger and wiser than he have no means to help his pain. And the hope of relief and the show of compassion comfort him, while his mother rubs his bump.
  • Laughter and singing especially seemed to her a blasphemy against her grief.
  • Yet one had to live.
  • The higher they stand in the human hierarchy, the less free they are.
  • And tomorrow I’ll be killed—not even by a Frenchman, but by one of our soldiers, like the one yesterday who fired his gun just next to my ear—and the French will come, take me by the feet and head, and fling me into a pit, so as not to have me stink under their noses, and new conditions of life will take shape, which will become habitual for other people, and I won’t know about them, and I won’t be there.
  • It’s like the magnanimity and sentimentality of the lady who swoons when she sees a calf slaughtered; she’s so kind, she can’t bear the sight of blood, but she eats the same calf in sauce with great appetite.
  • As it is, war is the favorite pastime of idle and light-minded people…The military estate is the most honored. But what is war, what is needed for success in military affairs, what are the morals of military society? The aim of war is killing, the instruments of war are espionage, treason and the encouragement of it, the ruin of the inhabitants, robbing them or stealing to supply the army; deception and lying are called military stratagems; the morals of the military estate are absence of freedom, that is, discipline, idleness, ignorance, cruelty, depravity, and drunkenness. And in spite of that, it is the highest estate, respected by all. All kings except the Chinese wear military uniforms, and the one who has killed the most people gets the greatest reward…They come together, like tomorrow, to kill each other, they slaughter and maim tens of thousands of men, and then they say prayers of thanksgiving for having slaughtered so many people (inflating the numbers), and proclaim victory, supposing that the more people slaughtered, the greater the merit. How does God look down and listen to them!
  • I see that I’ve begun to understand too much. And it’s not good for man to taste of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…Well, it won’t be for long!
  • The sergeant ran up to the senior officer and in a frightened whisper (the way a butler reports to his master at dinner that they have run out of the wine he requested) said that they had run out of charges.
  • And the terrible thing continued to be accomplished, which was accomplished not by the will of men, but by the will of Him who governs people and worlds.
  • That’s for me to know and not for you to ask.
  • You can love a person dear to you with a human love, but an enemy can only be loved with divine love.
  • It was too late to go anywhere, but still too early to go to bed.
  • You suffer an hour, you live an age!
  • Where there’s law, there’s lies.
  • A wife for advice, a mother-in-law for welcome, but no one’s dearer than your own mother!
  • And he felt that the previously destroyed world was now arising in his soul with a new beauty, on some new and unshakeable foundations.
  • Being listened to, but as birds do, apparently because it was necessary for him to utter sounds,
  • Yes, that was death. I died – I woke up. Yes, death is an awakening.
  • For nowhere is a man more free than in a battle, where it is a question of life and death.
  • And, without thinking, he had received that peace and harmony with himself only through the horror of death, through privation.
  • His anger with his wife and his anxiety about his name being disgraced now seemed to him not only insignificant, but amusing.
  • Happiness can only be negative.
  • The satisfaction of his needs – for good food, cleanliness, freedom – now that he was deprived of them all, seemed perfect happiness.
  • When a man finds himself in motion, he always thinks up a goal for that motion. In order to walk a thousand miles, a man needs to think that there is something good at the end of those thousand miles. One needs a vision of the promised land in order to have the strength to move. The promised land for the advancing French was Moscow; for the retreat it was their native land.
  • As there is no situation in the world in which a man can be happy and perfectly free, so there is no situation in which he can be perfectly unhappy and unfree.
  • There is a limit to suffering and a limit to freedom, and that those limits are very close.
  • That the man who suffers because one leaf is askew in his bed of roses, suffers as much as he now suffered falling asleep on the bare, damp ground, one side getting cold as the other warmed up; that when he used to put on his tight ballroom shoes, he suffered just as much as now, when he walked quite barefoot (his shoes had long since worn out) and his feet were covered with sores.
  • Lament for your sickness, and God won’t grant you death.
  • Am suffering for my own and other people’s sins.
  • One thing is terrible, it is to bind yourself forever to a suffering man.
  • People invite me and tell me about myself.
  • Once we’re thrown off our habitual paths, we think all is lost; but it’s only here that the new and the good begins. As long as there’s life, there’s happiness. There’s much, much still to come.
  • If the purpose of the European wars at the beginning of the present century was the greatness of Russia, that purpose could have been achieved without any of the preceding wars and without the invasion. If the purpose was the greatness of France, it could have been achieved without the revolution and without the empire. If the purpose was the spreading of ideas, printing would have carried it out far better than soldiers. If the purpose was the progress of civilization, it is quite easy to suppose that, besides the destruction of people and their wealth, there are other more expedient ways to spread civilization.
  • Chance made the situation; genius profited from it.
  • Yielding to that irresistible impulse that makes us judge the nearest and dearest people.
  • When I’m taken up with a thought, all the rest is an amusement.
  • All the ancient historians used one and the same method to describe and grasp the seemingly ungraspable – the life of a people. They described the activity of individual men who ruled the people; and this activity expressed for them the activity of the whole people.


Modern history, in answer to these questions, says: you want to know what this movement means, why it occurred, and what force produced these events? Listen:

“Louis XIV was a very proud and presumptuous man; he had such-and-such mistresses and such-and-such ministers, and he ruled France badly. Louis’s heirs were also weak men and also ruled France badly. They, too, had such-and-such favorites and such-and-such mistresses. Besides, certain men were writing books at that time. At the end of the eighteenth century, some two dozen men got together in Paris and started talking about all men being equal and free. That led people all over France to start slaughtering and drowning each other. These people killed the king and many others. At the same time there was in France a man of genius—Napoleon. He defeated everybody everywhere—that is, he killed a lot of people—because he was a great genius. And he went off for some reason to kill Africans, and he killed them so well, and was so cunning and clever, that, on coming back to France, he ordered everybody to obey him. And everybody obeyed him. Having become emperor, he again went to kill people in Italy, Austria, and Prussia. And there he killed a lot. In Russia there was the emperor Alexander, who decided to restore order in Europe and therefore made war with Napoleon. But in the year seven, he suddenly made friends with him, then in the year eleven quarreled again, and again they started killing a lot of people. And Napoleon brought six hundred thousand men to Russia and captured Moscow; then he suddenly ran away from Moscow, and then the emperor Alexander, helped by the advice of Stein and others, united Europe to take up arms against the disturber of its peace. All Napoleon’s allies suddenly became his enemies; and this armed force marched against Napoleon, who had gathered new forces. The allies defeated Napoleon, entered Paris, made Napoleon abdicate, and exiled him to the island of Elba, not depriving him of the dignity of emperor and showing him every respect, though five years earlier and one year later everybody considered him a bandit and outlaw. And so began the reign of Louis XVIII, whom until then both the French and the allies had only laughed at. Napoleon, pouring out tears before his old guard, abdicated and went into exile. Then skillful statesmen and diplomats (in particular Talleyrand, who managed to sit in a certain chair before anyone else and thereby extended the borders of France) talked in Vienna, and with these talks made people happy or unhappy. Suddenly the diplomats and monarchs nearly quarreled; they were already prepared to order their troops to kill each other again; but at that moment Napoleon arrived in France with a battalion, and the French, who hated him, all submitted to him at once. But the allied monarchs were angered by that and again went to war with the French. And the genius Napoleon was defeated and taken to the island of St. Helena, having suddenly been recognized as a bandit. And there the exile, separated from those dear to his heart and from his beloved France, died a slow death on the rock and bequeathed his great deeds to posterity. But in Europe there was the reaction, and the sovereigns all started mistreating their own people again.”


I loved you the moment I saw you. May I hope?”

He glanced at her, and the serious passion in the expression of her face struck him. Her face said: “Why ask? Why doubt what you cannot help knowing? Why speak when it’s impossible to put everything you feel into words?”

She came closer to him and stopped. He took her hand and kissed it.

“Do you love me?”

“Yes, yes,” Natasha said as if with vexation, sighed loudly, then again and again, and burst into sobs.

“Why? What’s the matter?”

“Ah, I’m so happy,” she replied, smiling through her tears, leaned closer to him, thought for a second, as if asking herself whether she could, and kissed him.

Prince Andrei held her hand, looked into her eyes, and did not find the former love for her in his soul. Something suddenly turned over in his soul: the former poetic and mysterious delight of desire was not there, but there was pity for her woman’s and child’s weakness, there was fear before her devotion and trust, a heavy but at the same time joyful consciousness of duty that bound him to her forever. The actual feeling, though not as bright and poetic as the former one, was more serious and strong. (Page 479)


It was a story about an old merchant, who lived a seemly and God-fearing life with his family, and went once with a comrade, a rich merchant, to the Makary.

Having stopped at an inn, the two merchants went to bed, and the next day the comrade was found murdered and robbed. The bloody knife was found under the old merchant’s pillow. The merchant was tried, punished with the knout, and, having had his nostrils slit, was—in due order, as Karataev said—sent to hard labor.

“And so, brother mine” (Pierre arrived at this point in Karataev’s story), “ten years or more go by after this affair. The old man lives at hard labor. Duly submits, does nothing bad. Only asks God for death. Good. And the convicts got together, a nightly thing, like you and me here, and the old man was with them. They started talking about who suffers for what, and what he’s guilty of before God. They began telling: this one killed a man, that one killed two, another set a fire, another was a runaway, so he did nothing. They started asking the old man: ‘What are you suffering for, grandpa?’ ‘I, my dear brothers,’ he says, ‘am suffering for my own and other people’s sins. I didn’t kill anybody, or take anything that wasn’t mine, but even gave to beggars. I, my dear brothers, was a merchant; I had great wealth.’ Thus and so, he says. That is, he told them how the whole thing went, in proper order. ‘I don’t grieve over myself,’ he says. ‘God, that is, has found me. I only pity my old woman and children.’ And so the old man wept. In their company there happened to be the very man who had killed the merchant. ‘Where did it happen, grandpa?’ he says. ‘When, in what month?’—he asked everything. His heart ached inside him. He goes up to the old man and—plop at his feet. ‘You’re perishing because of me, old man. It’s the real truth. This man is suffering, lads,’ he says, ‘guiltlessly and needlessly. I did that deed,’ he says, ‘and put the knife under your head while you slept. Forgive me, grandpa,’ he says, ‘for Christ’s sake.’”

Karataev fell silent, smiling joyfully, gazing at the fire, and he adjusted the logs.

“And the old man says: ‘God will forgive you, and we’re all sinful before God, I’m suffering for my own sins.’ And he wept bitter tears. And what do you think, little falcon?” Karataev was speaking with a rapturous smile that beamed brighter and brighter, as if what he was about to tell contained the chief delight and the whole meaning of the story, “what do you think, little falcon, this same murderer denounced himself to the authorities. ‘I killed six men,’ he says (he was a great villain), ‘but I’m sorriest for this old man. Let him not lament on account of me.’ He declared it: they wrote it down, duly sent a letter. This was a far-off place, it was a while before everything got done, all the papers filled out as they ought, to the authorities, that is. It went all the way to the tsar. Time passed, the tsar’s ukase came: release the merchant, give him a reward, as much as they decided. The paper came, they started searching for the old man. Where’s that old man who has suffered guiltlessly and needlessly? A paper has come from the tsar. They started searching.” Karataev’s lower jaw quivered. “But God had already forgiven him—he was dead. There it is, little falcon,” Karataev concluded and for a long time, smiling silently, he looked straight in front of him. (Page 1062)


Author: SakiNama

His Highness