Reading for Friday, 30 January

From the despairing thought-world of Andrei, we now turn to the somewhat amusing headquarters of Napoleon.  A world where everyone bows and scrapes (as only the French can do) as they try to keep the boss happy.

It’s all a bit ridiculous, really, what with the portrait and Napoleon’s taking Beausset out to see Moscow “because he loves travel”.  I wonder how much of this is true (I know Tolstoy would have done his research pretty well), because it rings like the kind of anecdote that would never have been written in any historical document, but passed on to Tolstoy by some 75-year-old Frenchman who witnessed the incident and happily told the tale.

Is there an annotated War and Peace out there that explains all these allusions and stories?  I should investigate . . . but not tonight . . . I’m going to go to bed.


2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 10.26 – In Napoleon’s Tent

  1. The main footnote in Pevear/Volokhonsky in this chapter is one which indicates that the story about the surprise present of the portrait was taken from Beausset’s own memoirs, but that Tolstoy had added his own ironic twist to it – although, to be honest, I’m not really sure which “ironic twist” Tosltoy added because, at least to me, the whole story has a bit of a sense of irony to it.

    There’s also a footnote explaining what the game bilboquet is, that it’s basically a game where a ball with a hole in it is attached to a stick by a piece of string, and you have to catch the ball by getting it to land so the hole is pierced by the point of the stick. So that kind of explains the relevance of the painting.

    The thing that most struck me with this chapter, I think, was the contrast to the previous two and how, after all that inner angst from Andrei, we see Napoleon here in a scene of such banality. It seems this could be another way that Tolstoy is showing us that these great icon of history are, in reality, pretty ordinary.

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