Reading for Tuesday 17/12/08

Another day missed!  Sorry!  Anyway, here we really get our first full-blown Tolstoyesque description of Napoleon.  When Balashov gets to meet him, his clothes, his manner are all described.  And the steady escalation in this chapter from good-humoured politeness to ranting and raving is quite entertaining in its own way.  (Probably not if you were Balashov, though.)

My favourite moment, though, would have to be the little quirky one where Balashov knows he’s supposed to deliver the Tsar’s line about “as long as a single enemy under arms remains on Russian soil” and can’t bring himself to do it – knowing that it will send Napoleon into a worse rage.

Did Napoleon really want peace?  I don’t think so.  It comes across pretty clearly in this chapter who started what – and yet philosophically, no one really started anything, because everybody’s little choices brought them to this moment, and there is no turning back the clock.

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2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 9.6 – Napoleon Close Up

  1. I really did like this Chapter and I thought it was a brilliant portrayal of Napoleon and his character and, as always with Tolstoy, every little aspect of his personality, and his quirks (that shaking left leg calf!), seems somehow instantly familiar and recognisable, as if Napoleon could walk into your loungeroom and you would immediately know how he was going to behave. It’s clearly not a flattering picture – with his almost hysterical rantings – and yet it somehow helps us to understand how he became to be seen as the charismatic leader he was. But I do note, too, that Tolstoy doesn’t give Napoleon even a hint of a sympathetic side, not a bit of redeeming humanity.

    Like you, Matt, I couldn’t help but be amsed at the way Balashov couldn’t get out his big line. I found myself, despite having read it all before, still hoping that maybe the chapter would end with him turning around in the doorway and shouting Alexander’s words at Napoleon with a final defiant and triumphant gesture. But, alas, no!!

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