Reading for Friday, December 19

Well, hello everyone!  Merry Christmas to you all!

I have been on holiday the last few days, and I have barely been able to find a moment’s spare time to sit down and read War and Peace, so I apologise again for the long hiatus.  (But maybe you’ve been busy as well?)

I think I’ll just try doing two chapters at a time until I catch up.  I should say, that by my count, there were 363 chapters in my version of War and Peace so I always intended that I was going to utilise the two spare days to take Christmas and New Years off.  (But as you can see, I’m utilising Christmas Day to catch up . . . Ah well . . .)

In this chapter, we have a long and detailed description of the different points of view regarding what should be done by the Russians to defeat the French.  One group says So-And-So should be in charge, another group says we should do nothing, another group says go in all guns blazing, another says the Tsar should lead, another says the Tsar should go back to his palace.

Tolstoy never tells us which point of view he agrees with (possibly the last one?) but there’s a feeling that he’s more enjoying his role now as historian of 1812 (a war of which I’m sure there must have been plenty of historical materials and documents for him to scour when he was writing War and Peace) and is revelling in the level of historical detail which he can cram into his already detailed magnum opus.

But it does serve a purpose – it drives home the multiplicity of motivations and drives, all of which contribute to the flow of history.  And, finally, it ends with the “outburst of patriotism” that followed the Tsar’s returning to Moscow and finally letting the army get on with the job of fighting.  I can’t quite work out whether Tolstoy is being a bit tongue-in-cheek about the value of the Tsar leaving, but I’ll take him at face value on this one.

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One thought on “One-Year War and Peace 9.9 – Political Factions

  1. Well, firstly, Matt – welcome back (if it’s possible to welcome someone back to their own blog – but good to see you here again anyway)!! And, of course, Merry Christmas too. This must be the first Christmas where Shelby has really been able to get whipped up into the excitement of it all, I imagine. In any case, there are few things more enchanting than kids at Christmas – so I hope it has been a wonderful day for you all.

    Now – this chapter of War and Peace. I’m not at all sure if Tolstoy really would agree with any of these views of war – in a way none of them really seem to accord with his view of history, and yet what I found interesting was the way he gives us seven different points of view, all of them sophisticated in their own way, and then in a sense dismisses the whole lot by telling us the eighth and largest group are those who are really just opportunists, swapping and changing their ideas and their ideals according to what will work best for them at the time. It kind of reminds me of the scene back near the beginning of the book, where Andrei chided Pierre for his naivety in not wanting to go to war because it went against his convictions. In both cases, we are reminded that wars happen, not because people are fighting passionately for their beliefs, but because fickle circumcstances make them think it’s in their interests to be part of it. If Tolstoy is right in saying that these people make the majority of those who fight wars, then that makes the tragedy of war all the greater, and all the more absurd.

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