Reading for Saturday, 20 December

I had to chuckle at this chapter.  Here Andrei meets Pfuhl the German strategist.  There’s not really anythin I could add here, the chapter is so perfect on its own, but if I could point out my favourite moments, they are:

a) When we have the description of the various nationalities and why they are conceited.  My favourite of these is the French: “The Frenchman is conceited from supposing himself mentally and physically to be inordinately fascinating both to men and to women.”

b) The description of Pfuhl’s love of the grand theory of war and that even a failure “only convinced him of the correctness of his theory”.

You may be thinking that there are an awful lot of people involved in the command of this war, none of whom really seem to care that much about victory of the gravity of the situation.  Sadly, this is not just a novelistic thing, but something that seems to appear in many wars.

One of the problems the Americans (both sides) faced during the American Civil War of 1861-1865 was that when the war started, many commanders and generals were put into place on account of their political standing or how wealthy they were, rather than any military prowess and it caused all sorts of problems.

Oh yeah, and my final thing for today, is that I still think Tolstoy considers the Tsar to be soft, because he just calls for general meetings all day (which he won’t even call councils of war) and doesn’t really make any decisions.

Or does that make him a good commander because he recognises that he can’t influence the whole course of history?

Hmm . . . now I’ve confused myself.


5 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 9.10 – Pfuhl the Strategist

  1. As with you, Matt, I got a bit of a chuckle out of this Chapter – and I think it’s pretty clear how little regard Tolstoy has for Pfuel, and for the whole concept of a science of war. It’s almost like Tolstoy is painting us a cariciature here – a carciature, perhaps, of all those people who absorb themselves in esoteric theory, and who see the real world as just an inconvenient distraction.

    But I still don’t quite agree with your assessment of Tolstoy’s assessment of the Tsar. Not that I think Tolstoy sees him as a great hero, by any means, either – but, to me, he just seems to be portraying the Tsar as someone who is, ultimately, just another human being, subject to the same limitations, the same human emotions, the same vanities, as anyone else. I think we get the same picture of Napoleon – another person who is, ultimately, just a person. It’s just that Tolstoy clearly likes Alexander and clearly dislikes Napoleon – sort of like good nonentity/bad nonentity, perhaps!!

  2. Good morning Matt and Ian – and Happy Holidays to you.

    For me it’s Christmas morning, 5:50 am . . . for you, in Australia . . . anywhere from 8 pm to 10 pm, I guess.

    Hope you’ve had a good day.

  3. Thanks Carly … had a nice day here, enhanced by lovely weather – those white Christmases on your side of the world still look pretty enticing, though!! Hope you have a wonderful day, too.

  4. Our White Christmas took place all week . . . the rain has washed a lot of it away.

    So it’s making the roads and walking kinda’ slick – but, the sun’s out, so that’ll help.

    We’re going to my daughter’s for a roast beef dinner – I do hope she’s going to make Yorkshire Pudding!

  5. Well, she did make yorkshire . . . wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but it was her first try at it – there were only 6 little muffins.

    But the roast beef was superb!


    About this little passage by Tolstoy on the ‘self assuredness’ of the different nationalities – my favourite part was when he said ‘A Russian is self-assured just because he knows nothing does not want to know anything, since he does not believe that anything can be known.’

    I thought that was kinda’ funny.

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