In this chapter, we see Boris go about the process of bettering his position.  (Obviously, having learned well from his Mum.)  I think this chapter kind of speaks for itself, but I suspect that the inside glimpse it gives us into the politics behind the battles are fairly accurate.  My favourite moment would be the quote by the ever-cheeky Bilibin (while not making a physical appearance in this chapter, nonetheless his wit does), in which he advises the Russians to reply to Napoleon and refer to him as the ruler of France – thus refusing to acknowledge all Napoleon’s rule over the countries he has conquered.  The battle with Napoleon wasn’t just fought with cannons . . .

5 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 3.9 – Climbing the Ladder

  1. Yes, it’s a good chapter for providing some insights into the politics of the military – and that whole thing about the stated and the unstated rules I guess pretty well still holds for any organisation, where the “who you know” factor seems to have precedence over anything else, and where there are certain unspoken, but universally recognised, protocols about who is and isn’t important.

    But I think I liked Bilibin’s first suggestion for addressing Bonaparte the best – “Usurper and Enemy of the Human Race”. Now if that happened today, it would undoubtedly get leaked to the media and heads would be flying, metaphorically and literally, in all directions!!

  2. LOL! I wonder if there’s anyone in our current time, who we could call ‘Usurper and Enemy of the Human Race’ . . . heh! heh!

    But isn’t it a bit disturbing to know that military leaders might be chosen because of ‘who they know’? I’d like to think that the people who are put in place to handle war strategy are there because they are capable of such work – not because somebody’s mother pulled in a favour from a friend of a friend.

  3. Actually, I think in most wars (at least in the 1800s), leaders were very often put in charge because of who they knew.

    Certainly, a look at the American Civil War (another fascinating period in history) shows that this was the case. In the early years of the war, many of the commanders were put there because they were prominent local townspeople, and it took a couple of years of solid fighting to really start to leave good solid commanders in charge.

  4. And I don’t think it’s a phenomen peculiar to the military anyway. I’m sure it’s true of a lot of organisations – but one that springs to mind in particular is the whol field of politics, where I sort of worked for a little while – in a Minister’s private office. There, things were very much like they were for Boris in this chapter – a certain degree of reverence that is given to you by people, such as the public service, who in another work context would be far superior to you and would disregard you, if not dismiss you, without a second thought. I think it’s this tendency to place a sort of “aura” around certain positions, and to accord them a certain status, that is captured so well in this chapter.

  5. ADJUTANT (3) –

    One adjutant, nearest the door, was sitting at the table in a Persian dressing gown, writing. Another, the red, stout Nesvitski, lay on a bed with his arms under his head, laughing with an officer who had sat down beside him. A third was playing a Viennese waltz on the clavichord, while a fourth, lying on the clavichord, sang the tune.

    (just counted 3, ‘cause Nesvitski has already been counted)


    Do you know the tale about him and Count Markov?

    When he entered, Prince Andrew, his eyes drooping contemptuously (with that peculiar expression of polite weariness which plainly says, “If it were not my duty I would not talk to you for a moment”), was listening to an old Russian general with decorations, who stood very erect, almost on tiptoe, with a soldier’s obsequious expression on his purple face, reporting something.


    At that council, contrary to the views of the old generals Kutuzov and Prince Schwartzenberg, it had been decided to advance immediately and give battle to Bonaparte.

    318 + 6 = 324

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