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A very German word - Genehmigungsverfahrensbeschleunigungsgesetz

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I meant to write about another cool German word, and then I found this in an article. Genehmigungsverfahrensbeschleunigungsgesetz is the perfect German word. It is, of course, a compound word, consisting of:

Genehmigungsverfahren - permission approval process (a compound word as well)
Beschleunigung - acceleration
Gesetz - law

We Germans needed to make a law to cut down on the many hurdles of our bureaucracy to get permissions for infrastructure projects, just to be able to actually build streets, bridges and public transport. First we make laws to create bureaucracy and then we have to make laws to deal with it. Franz Kafka must be proud of us.

War and Peace Book 5

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We have arrived at book 5, everyone is trying to reflect on their recent disasters and trying to draw conclusions for the future. It is most of episode 3 of the series.

Pierre is very much regretting his life choices and rightfully blaming is own short comings for them:

So he does the obvious and joins a cult. The Freemasons to be specific. But Christina, you say, how can you be sure they are a cult? Well, how about this:

In the book the rituals Pierre gets subjected to are endless and I had to wonder just how naive Pierre is not to be suspicious of the high amount of pseudo spiritual bs combined with the frequent demands for donations. Poor Pierre is just desperately wanting to be a good person, he happily throws money at anything that might get him there and the Freemasons with their promise of building a Brotherhood of Men hit the jackpot here. In his defense, he does not only submit himself to rituals or donates money, he actually (finally) tries to use his position as a count to improve the lives of people he holds power over. I had really looked forward to this part in the book, as the TV series only deals with his attempts to implement reforms in one scene. In this scene is is implied that the reforms are inefficient because of his naiveté (or stupidity, as I would say):

Interestingly, in the book, it is more complicated than that. Pierre has obviously no idea how to run his estates. He is also very much aware of this fact. He knows he should sit down and learn how things work if he wants to make effective reforms, but he is simply too lazy and easily distracted to do so. Instead he relies on the overseers of his estate to advice him, who cheat him out of a lot of money, and actually make the lives of his serfs worse. Pierre willingly lets himself be fooled, because it allows him to feel better about himself without actually having to do the hard work of changing.

Nikolai on the other hand does. He starts living within his means, manages to saves his army wages and pays back his dept to his father. Which the TV series does not mention AT ALL. Nikolai finds meaning in the simple life and the camaraderie of the soldiers. He is also still very much in love with the Tsar (who Tolstoy really wants you to know is handsome). After already having been disillusioned by war, he now becomes disillusioned with the whole military system. The soldiers are left to starve and in desperation Denisov seizes provisions meant for another regiment to save his men. He gets court-martialed and Nikolai tries to get him a pardon from the Tsar. He witnesses a meeting between the Tsar and Napoleon and is aghast on how the Tsar treats him as an equal:

Then some random Russian soldiers get the (french) Legion of Honor as an (empty) gesture, while the Tsar tells Nikolai he cannot do anything about Denisov. During this whole adventure Nikolai meets Boris, who I have mainly ignored. Boris's story is parallel to Nikolai. They both start at the low ranks, but while Nikolai refuses to use his connections and has no head for politics, Boris is rising rapidly through the ranks.

Andrei decided to become even more insufferable by adopting nihilism. Nothing matters now, only his family and he is going to spend the rest of his life contemplating the meaningless of all existence. As this is high literature, we of course need SYMBOLISM:

See the tree? Guess what he represents? And you won't believe what happens once Pierre comes to visit and bombards him with all his newfound enthusiasm about the Freemasons and helping mankind until even Andrei has to admit that maybe life is not meaningless after all:

The conversation between Pierre and Andrei is actually really lovely and the TV series brings out the cinematography to support it:

I can now almost forgive them for editing the series in a way that makes it look as if meeting Natasha is the reason he changes his outlook. In the book it is very clearly Pierre's influence (more about this in the next book) and he falls in love with Natasha AFTER his changed attitude makes it possible for him to be open to the possibility of love.

Picture of the week - Building the new hospital

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After the construction was delayed for years with endless discussions where it should be built the extension of the hospital is finally being built. Next to my house. So I did not only have the noise from the city airport, but also from construction. Yay me!

War and Peace Book 4

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Book 4 is covered in the second half of episode 2 and most of episode 3. Everyone is suffering the consequences of their bad decision making, and I was very happy to have checked beforehand who dies and who survives in this book. Get the pop corn!

Let's introduce the villain for this part:

Tom Burke is having so much fun as Dolokhov. He does not look as described in the book (blonde and clean shaven), but his personality is the same. He messes with Pierre, simply because he hates being depended on such a loser for money and with Nikolai, because he is annoyed that Sonya is in love with the younger, cowardly, naive man, instead of him.

It is not made explicitly clear in the book whether Helene actually had an affair with Dolokhov. It is very obvious though that Dolokhov wants to get a rise out of Pierre with constantly alluding to it and is delighted when Pierre, impulsive as he is, challenges him to a duel. Shooting Pierre in a duel after humiliating him with an affair with his wife is his idea of fun. Pierre proves here that he has no right to call anyone stupid, he challenges a sharpshooter in the army to a duel, when he doesn't even know how to use a gun.

Oh Pierre....

In the book it is made more explicit that challenging Dolokhov to a duel wasn't only stupid because of the high likelihood of dying, but also because of the scandal and ruin it can bring. By challenging Dolokhov, Pierre basically publicly accuses Helene of the affair. Additionally, when she confronts him about potentially ruining her standing in society, he proposes separation, which he can only legally do by accusing her of an affair in a court of law. If he can prove it, she and her family are basically ruined, if not, he will have to pay for the separation. Pierre does not propose separation out of malice, but out of desperation to get out of a marriage that is extremely toxic for them both. Helene is of course concerned about the material implication, which are much more dangerous for her than him and being used to being able to use his fear of her to get him to do what she wants keeps pressuring him. It ends with him throwing a table. It is described as the frightening act of violence that it is and Pierre leaves her in control of most of his wealth and leaves St Petersburg in disgrace. (as he should)

Nikolai isn't much better in his decision making. His naivety, callousness with money and stubborn pride makes him fall into Dolokhov's trap. It is very clear that Dolokhov is cheating gambling with cards, but Nikolai refuses to see it and in the end ruins his family with his dept. Jack Lowden is amazing in the whole episode. He expresses all the emotions, stubborn disbelief to deer in headlights fright during the gambling scenes. When confessing to his father he goes from denial over bravado to crushing guilt and regret.

It is really sad that most of his character development stops here in the TV series. In the book he grows up after this episode, holds himself accountable for his mistakes, lives within his means and pays back all his dept. He has a lot of integrity in the book, which gets lost in the TV series.

So what about Andrei? Who dismissed all his wife's fears as trivial compared to his quest for higher purpose and honour?

Hope you like being a single father, Andrei... And he manages to become even more insufferable as a result.

During the past chapter / episodes we have been checking in with Natasha, who is slowly going from being a child to a teenager. She is quite thoughtful, wondering what it means to be in love (a recurring theme is her measuring feelings on how well she remembers her "suitors" faces, while they are away, which pays off later).

She is also very much team Pierre and always defends him when he does something stupid.

Here she is getting her first marriage proposal, from Denisov, who is nothing but lovely in the TV show (in the book he as a whole side story of stealing supplies for his regiment). The proposal, the rejection and how graciously the rejection was received were all lovely.

In my head canon he and Sonya get together at the end, because they are both lovely people and Sonya deserves a good husband instead of being basically part of Nikolai's and Marya's furniture. I mean, just look at her:

Picture of the week - Tulip

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Summer is almost over...

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