Kissing Cousins

Day 10 of A Year of War and Peace

atasha awaits Boris in the conservatory. She’s overtaken with the whim to hide and make him search for her. So she secrets herself away behind some flower tubs and waits for him there. Boris enters but he’s more interested in admiring himself in the mirror than he is in looking for Natasha. He leaves.

Sonya shows up. She’s crying. Nikolai soon follows. He assures her that his talking with Julie Karagina at dinner was completely innocent. His true love is for her and her only. In support of this argument he kisses her.

After Nikolai and Sonya leave Natasha calls Boris back to her. She flirts with him a little bit and when he doesn’t take the bait she kisses him. Then, drawing on the special wisdom of teenagers, the two decide they shall marry in four year’s time. We’ll see how that works out for them.


What has always struck me about this chapter is Natasha’s behavior. We get the sense that Natasha is bothered by Sonya and Nikolai’s kiss. Not necessarily because she disapproves of the couple but, rather, the way I read it anyway, because it is Sonya who has won the race to the first kiss.

This compulsion to compare ourselves, often unfavorably, to others can be destructive. It disturbs the mind and bring us unnecessary, self-inflicted suffering. What to do?

Don’t waste the rest of your time here worrying about other people — unless it affects the common good. It will keep you from doing anything useful. You’ll be too preoccupied with what so-and-so is doing, and why, and what they’re saying, and what they’re thinking, and what they’re up to, and all the other things that throw you off and keep you from focusing your own mind.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations (Book III, 4)

This is the tenth 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 my introduction to the series here.

I’m also very interested in hearing what you have to say about the novel. So leave a comment and let me know.

If you like these essays and would like to support me please consider purchasing my eBook A Year of War and Peace. I also have a Patreon or you could make a one time donation to my PayPal account at Please use that email address if you want to contact me. Or you could follow me on Twitter.

For my friends and family, love. For my enemies, durian fruit.

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