Here’s where Tolstoy probably takes his most artistic licence with history.  In this chapter, Napoleon (as described by Leo) stalks back to his tents, feeling devastated that he has caused so much death and destruction.

But then we finish with extensive quotes from Napoleon’s memoirs, talking about the reasons for the wars – to extend a brilliant French kingdom from one end of Europe to another.  It was going to be wonderful, if the battles had all worked out.

Tolstoy says that to take this false view of something so devastating, Napoleon had to deny his true feelings and buy the lie that he was amazing and could change the world.  But I’m not sure that he believed it was a lie – do we really know that he was devastated after the Battle of Borodino?

Or did he actually believe that this was just a setback on his path to the wonderful French kingdom?  I’m not sure – I think Tolstoy would like us to think that Napoleon, in his heart of hearts, agreed with Leo, but I’m not sure that he did.

But that’s okay – it’s Leo’s book and he can do what he likes with his characters (real or fictional).


One thought on “One-Year War and Peace 10.38 – Ignoring His True Feelings

  1. It certainly would be interesting to know just how much of these little glimpses into the souls of historical characters are in fact informed by what really happened. I’d actually forgotten about this brief moment of self-doubt that Napoleon experiences and in fact was thinking earlier today, as I was commenting on the humanity with which Tolstoy manages to imbue all his characters that perhaps Napoleon was the one exception to this – the one character for whom Tostoy seemed to have no sympathy and for whom he seemed to want us to have no sympathy, either. Yet in this scene we get a tiny hint of a consience in Napoleon. But it’s only the tiniest hint and perhaps the fact Napoleon seems able to brush it away so quickly only makes him all the more horrific and, indeed, inhuman.

    And also just following on briefly from yesterday’s discussion, Matt, I did manage to track down the interview with Anatole (well with Vasili Lanovoy to be precise) on the disc of extras – and that really was such an interesting tale about his demands to include the amputation scene: a scene which, incidentally, he mentions was actually filmed at Borodino.

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