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).