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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: May 2013

Chapter 10 - Conclusion: War and Peace

from Peace

Summary

Introduction

Leo Tolstoy, a veteran of the Crimean War, wrote War and Peace as a serialized novel in the journal Russian Messenger between 1865 and 1867. Published in its entirety in 1869, the novel records the traumatic effects on a number of aristocratic families of Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812 and the eventual occupation and burning of Moscow. Like any great novel, it can be read from a variety of perspectives, but at least two major themes stand out. Firstly there is the futility of war and its destructive consequences on the lives of the rich and the poor alike. Secondly there is Pierre Bezukhov's search for a satisfactory meaning for life via debauchery, married life, the Masonic League, and public service. Nothing satisfies Pierre until he finds comfort and eventually meaning in the simple lives of peasants and in the ordinariness of everyday life. Only after suffering and deprivation can he realize that life itself is the paradoxical meaning of life. The novel intertwines the destructive nature of pride and ambition with the peaceful reassurance that comes from engagement with life on its own terms. It has remained a compelling and damning statement about the horrors of war and an inspiration for radical pacifism throughout the twentieth century. It offers a suitable framework for the various chapters in this book which has explored both war and peace as companions of the religions of the world.

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