Saturday, 28 July 2012

Reading the Book of "Simple Pleasures" in Light of Tolstoy's Pierre



On a recent literary spree in town, I picked up a little hardcover book entitled Simple Pleasures: Little Things That Make Life Worth Living (collated by the National Trust). As I had an armful of books already I didn't buy it there and then, but I did later order it on Amazon. I'm glad that I did.

It's one of those books that you can flick through at ease, not bound by having to read it chronologically. This is largely because it consists of chapters around three pages long, each written by a different contributor on the particular simple pleasure that they enjoy.

This book got me thinking about the simple pleasures that I enjoy - after a short time I realised that there was quite a hefty list. There's chocolate, of course, alongside beautiful books, good company, and the natural surroundings around my home. I'll go back to this certainly expansive list in a future post, I think, but now I'd like to mention a quote which I encountered shortly after beginning this book, during my re-reading of War and Peace.

The quote below is an example of writing that inspires me with complete awe. To me, it speaks of a "simple pleasure" in that it doesn't have to be purchased, yet it's an incredibly complex "pleasure" in it's rarity and dependence on complete psychological takeover by the sublime.

If that makes sense. It's a very long quote, but I couldn't find anywhere I wished to cut it down. I only wish that I could speak Russian.
From Wikipedia
"As he drove into the Arbat a vast firmament of darkness and stars opened out before Pierre's eyes. And there in the middle, high above Prechistensky Boulevard, amidst a scattering of stars on every side but catching the eye through its closeness to the earth, its pure white light and the long uplift of its tale, shone the comet, the huge, brilliant comet of 1812, that popular harbinger of untold horrors and the end of the world. But this bright comet with its long, shiny tail held no fears for Pierre. Quite the reverse: Pierre's eyes glittered with tears of rapture as he gazed up at this radiant star, which must have traced its parabola through infinite space at speeds unimaginable and now suddenly seemed to have picked its spot in the black sky and impaled itself like an arrow piercing the earth, and stuck there, with its strong upthrusting tail and its brilliant display of whiteness amidst the infinity of scintillating stars. This heavenly body seemed perfectly attuned to Pierre's newly melted heart, as it gathered reassurance and blossomed into new life."

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