Like many gay people who go to the theatre, I was deeply affected by the Broadway musical Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 when I saw it at the Imperial Theater this past January. In particular, I was intrigued by the character of Pierre Bezukhov. Who was this “sad old man living out his final days in Moscow,” who “sees a sickness in the world that everyone knows but pretends that they don’t see” and “has no sex”? What was the nature of his feelings for the dashing, equally depressed, young officer Andrei Bolkonsky? I had to know more.
Immediately after the show, I bought an ebook of War and Peace, the iconic novel on which Great Comet is based. Unfortunately, as it turns out, I lead a very busy life, and War and Peace is a very long book. As such, I have yet to reach any of the novel’s major plot points or even meet any of its major characters; according to Google Books, I am 0.053% of the way through reading it. However I am pleased to report that Tolstoy has not failed to deliver a generous number of references to Pierre’s social isolation, loneliness, and tender feelings for his male friends. Here are a sampling of the passages I have highlighted so far.
#1: The first moment when Pierre and Andrei interact
#2: When Andrei advises Pierre never to get married
#3: When Andrei’s wife leaves the room crying because of how much time Andrei is spending with Pierre, and Andrei continues to tell Pierre not to get married
#4: When Pierre is shown to be hated and ostracized by his entire extended family for no specified reason (i.e. because he is gay)
#5: When Pierre meets a cute boy