In this chapter, Tolstoy reminds us of the often surreal nature of history, with this rather tangential tale of Balashov and his encounter with Napoleon’s brother-in-law Murat.
It’s tangential in that it doesn’t involve any of our main characters, but it’s quite relevant in that the entire fate of Russia waits in the hands of this one man trying to get through to see Napoleon and he’s finding himself either waiting around on the timing of French soldiers who are treating him with the utmost contempt, and then finally having strange conversations with Murat.
There’s a sly sense of humour in this chapter, as Murat tries to distance himself from what is going on, as if it’s not in his hands – and I think the classic line that sums it up is when Murat is recorded as speaking “in the tone in which servants speak who are anxious to remain on friendly terms though their masters have quarrelled.”
War is a crazy time . . .