Tolstoj and the Same Old Moron

by Pietro Grossi

Life looks pretty fine today. The sun just appeared over my terrace behind the trees. A soft, subtle line of fog sits down in the valley. While I was sipping my coffee, a squirrel came across the terrace with a nut in its mouth. And, most of all, I just finished War and Peace. I woke up around five and couldn’t get back to sleep, so after a bunch of minutes I just decided to turn the light on and pick up the book. I finally ended it. Finally and sadly. I have been waiting fifteen years to read the book, always having the feeling that wasn’t the right moment. This summer luckily it was: I have never been so patient and I have never been so pleased with my stubbornness. Reading the book has been one of the most intense experiences of my whole life. And I want to be very clear about it: I had a pretty fun life and always thought that life was stronger than stories.

Don’t worry: I won’t start a boring discussion about the book, first of all because the book is too huge to be discussed and in second place because I really think that books are not to be discussed that much.

Anyway, a couple of pages after the beginning of the third book Tolstoj says something that got stuck in my head and I can’t get it out. He says that a man lives two lives, a personal one and a social one; “consciously”, he says (and I am very sorry for the rough translation) “a man lives for himself but unconsciously he becomes the instrument with which history and the human community pursue their goals”. Now, if I am here at the desk of my new studio
set in the Tuscan countryside writing this post, if I am about to leave for another country to discuss a book of mine in front of a whole audience of strangers, it means an immense amount of unpredictable and fortunate and unexpected events glued together outside of my control. My activity, to put it with Tolstoj’s words, has fallen from a personal matter to a world’s matter.

Given this frightening point of view, what next? An old Italian author once draw the picture of a writer’s evolution, going from a young promise to a great debut to the same old moron. Very few of them, a lot later, get to the marvellous green gardens of the venerable “maestro”. Now, I have already been a young promise and one morning, more than three years ago, at the beginning of March I went to have breakfast at the caffè around the corner; before getting to the caffè I bought a couple of newspapers: on the cultural pages of the two news papers there were articles about my book. Beautiful articles, some of the best articles I had read in a pretty long time. My head began to spin and my stomach to flip: I couldn’t walk straight and couldn’t get my croissant down. Before getting back home I had to walk around the block to calm down and every twenty steps I felt like throwing up and needed to stop by a pole or something. It was a Saturday morning, about half past eight: people probably thought I was another young idiot who was still up from the night before and took any kind of drug, they weren't to know I was a man who had just apparently realized all his dreams.

Today I am facing the foggy swamps of the same old moron. Since I find something very intriguing in both thoughts, I have to combine Tolsoj’s and the old Italian author’s words: to leave my personal life and get into the greatness of history makes me a moron. Life is pretty funny some times. I guess I just have to live with it and try to keep some dignity.

Luckily, at the end of it all, there is the beautiful picture of that old man, with a white beard and a walking stick in his hand.

I’ll probably never get there, but you never know.

Pietro Grossi was born in Florence in 1978. He is a great admirer of
Hemingway and JD Salinger, and has been writing since he was eight years old. Fists is his second novel, for which he won the Premio Cocito Monta d'Alba prize. He lives and works between Tuscany and Milan.

Pietro is currently on a virtual tour:


Wednesday 19th Alma Books Bloggerel

Thursday 20th Bibliophilic Blogger

Friday 21st Nihoni Distractions

Monday 24th The Truth About Lies

Tuesday 25th Pursewarden

Wednesday 26th The View From Here

Thursday 27th Bookmunch

Friday 28th Notes in theMargin


Thursday 3rd Lizzy’s Literary Life

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Nice to see this writer's a fan of "War of and Peace." He offers a translation of "consciously," but I'm not sure if he read the novel in translation or not.
I am very slowly, too slowly, reading the translation by Pevear and Volkhonsky. They translated "Anna Karenina" about ten years ago and it was the first time I could read about simpering Anna without impatience.
When I was 16, my parents took us to a tiny island off Maine for summer vacation. Luckily, I found "War and Peace," which shut everyone and everything else--out.
Of course, my experience and understanding was awfully limited at 16, but it was the perfect age for total immersion.