In Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace there are some breathtaking scenes of romance and infatuation. From Book I, Part 3, Chapter 1, as foolish young rich Pierre (Pyotr Kirilovich Bezukhov) reaches past Ellen (Princess Elena Vasilyevna Kuragina) for a snuffbox:

He half rose, meaning to go around her, but the aunt handed him the snuffbox, passing it behind Ellen's back. Ellen leaned forward to make room, and looked back with a smile. She was, as always at evening parties, wearing a dress cut very low in front and in back, which was fashionable at the time. Her bust, which had always seemed like marble to Pierre, was so close that his nearsighted eyes could not help perceiving the vital charm of her neck and shoulders, so near to his lips that he need only to have bent his head slightly to have touched them. He was aware of the warmth of her body, the scent of her perfume, and heard the creak of her corset as she breathed. Instead of the marble beauty constituting a whole with her dress, he saw and felt the complete allure of her body, concealed only by her garments. And having once seen this, he could not see her otherwise, just as we cannot return to a delusion once it has been exposed.

She looked back, gazing at him with her brilliant black eyes, and smiled.

"So you have never before noticed how beautiful I am?" she seemed to say. "You haven't noticed that I am a woman? Yes, I am a woman who may belong to anyone --- even to you," her eyes said.

And at that moment, Pierre felt that Ellen not only could but must be his wife, that it could not be otherwise. He knew it as surely as if he had been standing beside her at the altar. How this would be and when he did not know; he did not even know if it would be a good thing (actually he felt that for some reason it would be wrong) but he knew that it was to be.

Pierre dropped his eyes, then raised them again and tried to see her as a remote beauty, alien to him, as he had seen her every day till then, but it was no longer possible, He could no more do it than a man who has been gazing through the mist at a tuft of steppe grass that he has taken for a tree can go back to seeing the tree once he has recognized it as grass. She was terribly close to him. Already she exerted a power over him. And between them there was no longer any barrier except the barrier of his will.

(from the Ann Dunnigan translation, 1968; see also TruthInBattle (11 Feb 2001), OozeOnVerst (22 Sep 2004), ...)

TopicLiterature - TopicArt - 2004-10-04

(correlates: IncomParable, Worst and Bad, CheckYourMirrors, ...)