Reading for Monday, 2 February

This brief chapter (they are starting to get very short, aren’t they?  It’s great if you’re as behind as I am) shows an interesting side to the Napoleon story.  After a day of swagger, bluster and strategy, we see the “great” general in his tent at night, unable to sleep, and (in a way that must have been most satisfactory to Leo as he scrawled this out in his incomprehensible handwriting) agreeing with Tolstoy that there’s not a lot he’s able to do to influence tomorrow.

When he says, “Do you know, Rapp, what the military art consists in? It is the art of being stronger than the enemy at a given moment. That is all.” he practically echoes Kutuzov and Andrei Bolkonsky.

By the way, on this note, I’ve given some thought to what you’ve been saying, Ian, and yes, you’re correct, I should take back what I said about Tolstoy putting forward a theory where we do nothing at all.

What he is saying is that one man by themselves is not going to influence history and we shouldn’t place trust in the “great men” as being our saviours.  Instead, there are only two alternatives – a type of apathetic anarchy (which I apologise for lumping on you, Leo) or a system where we all band together and as a group change the world.  (As happens when one army decides to band together and get something done.)

Would that be a more correct reading of things?

We’ll soon see, anyway, because as this chapter so simply puts it at the end of the chapter, “The game had begun.”


3 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 10.29 – His Doubts

  1. Yes, Matt, I think your description of Tolstoy’s challenge for us to all band together to change the world is much closer to Tolstoy’s message, at least as I understand it. It just gets further complicated by his view that free will is in itself an illusion, but, that’s a topic that gets a ot more attention later on, especially in the second Epilogue, so we will no doubt get a chance to thrash it all out there, and to reflect on how Tolstoy’s views about free will equate with his views about people banding together to bring about change – something which, incidentally, and as I think I might have mentioned some time ago, is most eloquently captured in the quote from Pierre, which actually comesfrom the first Epilogue but which appears at the beginning of the Bondarchuk film, saying, in essence, “because bad people band together and become strong, good people have to do the same”.

    Anyway – this chapter. I saw this as yet another example of the clever, ironic way in which Tolstoy puts things together. First, and for the bulk of the chapter, we get this picture of Napoleon being kept awake by his cold. It’s like the archetype of triviality. And then it’s all followed by that austere, simple and yet, for me, utterly shattering description of the beginning of the battle and those four, simple words, which you, too, noted, Matt: “The game had begun”. There’s such a finality there, I think – and even more so, in the original Russian, where those four words are only two words: “Irga nachalas'”

  2. Whoa! What’s being said here today? Do you fellas realize this page could become one of the most famous in history . . . 100 years from now, folks could be reading these entries and say,

    ‘HEY! It all started right here at Matt’s Blog!’

  3. Oh, you mean the anarchist? It could have been – but then I spammed him. So I’m afraid that he’ll have to be an anarchist somewhere else.

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