G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

H. P. Lovecraft: "What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"

Martin Amis: “Gogol is funny, Tolstoy in his merciless clarity is funny, and Dostoyevsky, funnily enough, is very funny indeed; moreover, the final generation of Russian literature, before it was destroyed by Lenin and Stalin, remained emphatically comic — Bunin, Bely, Bulgakov, Zamyatin. The novel is comic because life is comic (until the inevitable tragedy of the fifth act);...”

Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Justin E.H. Smith: “One should of course take seriously serious efforts to improve society. But when these efforts fail, in whole or in part, it is only humor that offers redemption. So far, human expectations have always been strained, and have always come, give or take a bit, to nothing. In this respect reality itself has the form of a joke, and humor the force of truth.”

विलास सारंग: "… . . 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."

Thursday, February 18, 2016

This Picture is as Good as a Perfect Work of Art

A. N. Wilson, 'Tolstoy', 1988:
"...Tolstoy's many letters to Bashilov make fascinating reading, emphasising not merely how much he cared about the finished book, but also how vividly he saw each scene and each character in his mind’s eye. If Bashilov sent a sketch which displeased Tolstoy, he got a quick letter back telling him what was wrong. They are not angry offensive letters, but they have an eye for everything:...The advice pours out, revealing that all the characters in War and Peace are just as real to Tolstoy- more real, really- than characters in real life.
..."


War and Peace miniseries on BBC seems to have become a major hit. This has led to a lot of interest in the book and its author all over again.

One of the most interesting things I recently learned about Tolstoy was how deeply he cared about the illustrations that went into the book. (This is in sharp contrast to most Marathi writers, who at best are indifferent to how their work is illustrated.)


"In the summer of 1866, as Leo Tolstoy prepared for his serialized novel War and Peace to be published as a single volume, he wrote to illustrator Mikhail Bashilov (M. S. Bashilov), hoping to commission drawings for the new edition of the novel, which he referred to by its original title, 1805. When Bashilov questioned a detail of historical verisimilitude—shouldn’t the turn-of-the-nineteenth century officers be wearing powdered wigs?—Tolstoy responded:

When I first began writing 1805, I discovered somewhere that powder had been done away with at the beginning of [Czar] Alexander’s reign, and I wrote on that basis; I later came across evidence, as you did, that it was still used in 1805. I didn’t know what to do. … Decide for yourself, whatever is most agreeable and convenient for you. In favor of drawing people wearing powder is the reason that if there is positive proof that powder was in use in 1805, I can correct the new edition and allude to powder and uniform. In fact it’s probably necessary to draw people wearing powder and in historically accurate uniform, to which I shall try to be faithful in the new edition...."

Now, see how Tolstoy gets the exact thing he is looking for, in the illustration of Pierre Bezukhov, from Bashilov.





















On the pictures above of Pierre, Tolstoy comments on April 4, 1866:

"His face is good (if only there could be more of a tendency to philosophizing in his forehead – little wrinkles or bumps over his eyebrows), but his body is small – it should be wider and stouter and more massive."....

and suggests...

"Pierre might be portrayed lying on a couch and reading a book, or, having torn himself away from his book, gazing distractedly and thoughtfully ahead through his glasses – he’d have leaned on one arm with the other tucked between his legs – actually, this is really better than him standing, though you, of course, know best."

  
All pictures by M. S. Bashilov (1821-1870)

And after seeing the result,  he writes:

"This picture is as good as a perfect work of art may possibly be; that is, it cannot be any better."

(courtesy: http://sites.utoronto.ca/…/tolstoy-and…/works/war/pierre.htm)

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