Yesterday, amid the headlines and hashtags, the footage and pictures from Paris, came an e-mail. It was from a publicist. It reminded us that this month marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of War and Peace.
Well, sort of: the first installment of what was then titled 1805 was indeed published in the January 1865 issue of Russkiy Vestnik. It ran in serial form for the next two years. However, Tolstoy wasn’t happy with this version and reworked much of the book—which he called “not a novel, even less is it a poem, and still less a historical chronicle”—before publishing it as War and Peace in 1869.
Arguably, a sesquicentennial is a tenuous peg in any case (it doesn’t even have an honorific, like gold or diamond). But in dark times, you don’t need an excuse; they are reason enough. I’m not suggesting that whenever there is tragedy in the world you drop everything and pick up a fourteen-hundred-page novel; there is life to lead and news to read and, yes, social media to follow, too. Besides, you’d be reading all the time. But it’s like Mr. Rogers said: when the world is frightening and violent, look for the helpers.
Yes, love, … but not the love that loves for something, to gain something, or because of something, but that love that I felt for the first time, when dying, I saw my enemy and yet loved him. I knew that feeling of love which is the essence of the soul, for which no object is needed. And I know that blissful feeling now too. To love one’s neighbors; to love one’s enemies. To love everything—to Love God in all His manifestations. Some one dear to one can be loved with human love; but an enemy can only be loved with divine love. And that was why I felt such joy when I felt that I loved that man. What happened to him? Is he alive? … Loving with human love, one may pass from love to hatred; but divine love cannot change. Nothing, not even death, can shatter it. It is the very nature of the soul. And how many people I have hated in my life. And of all people none I have loved and hated more than her … If it were only possible for me to see her once more … once, looking into those eyes to say …
Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.