Total Nihilistic Existential Breakdown

Day 243 of A Year of War and Peace


We’ve all been there before:

One can certainly sympathize with Pierre here, considering all he’s been through lately. He has experienced firsthand modernity’s foremost triumph, industrialized warfare. His best friend has been killed (he thinks). His country is being overrun by a nation most famous for its pastry production and his wife is now an infidelitous papist. It’s almost as bad as being a Mets fan.

So when he slinks out of his house in such a horrible mood it’s not too much of a surprise. He heads over to Bazdeev’s place to take charge of his late benefactor’s books. Pierre is met there by a servant named Gerasim who will, probably, go on to take up a new position in the house of Ivan Ilyich Golovin. For the time being, however, Gerasim waits on Pierre as Pierre figures out what to do with Bazdeev’s books.

Unfortunately, Pierre’s foul mood gets the better of him. Something rotten hatches in his mind. He orders Gerasim to fetch him peasant's garb and a pistol. That’s not a request typically associated with a well-balanced mental disposition. Something is up with Pierre.

The vagaries and vicissitudes of everyday life can be severe. Even when they don’t include a Napoleonic War. During trying times, though, it’s best not to overreact. Recall instead the practice of premeditatio malorum.

It’s preferable to be ready than to be ruined.


Cling tooth and nail to the following rule: Not to give in to adversity, never to trust prosperity, and always to take full note of fortune’s habit of behaving just as she pleases, treating her as if she were actually going to do everything it is in her power to do. Whatever you have been expecting for some time comes as less of a shock.

Seneca, Letters

This is the two hundred and forty third 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 the introduction to the series here.

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