Reading for Tuesday, 27 January
Again, this chapter is a twist on the usual war story. In a regular war story, this would be the moment where the generals expound the theory and work out their plans, all of which will be played out in the next few chapters.
Instead, we hear it from Pierre’s point of view, where none of it makes any sense, and he has to pretend to understand it, so he doesn’t look stupid. However, in Tolstoy’s view of the world, none of the strategy would have meant anything anyway, so in a way, Pierre’s hearing it as gibberish is exactly what Tolstoy thought of Bennigsen’s strategy.
However, in a neat shift, Tolstoy then lets us clearly hear a bit of strategy from Bennigsen – that of moving the troops up on top of the mountain. This bit of strategy we hear quite clearly, only to have it undermined as Tolstoy tells us that by doing this, Bennigsen confounded the commander-in-chief’s plans. So strategy that is incomprehensible and strategy that is foolish. Either way, Tolstoy doesn’t care too much for the strategies of the generals. (And he would have a reason for it – he heavily researched War and Peace and would have waded through the memoirs of many bragging generals talking about their perfect strategies which won this campaign or caused this action.)