And here, as we move from the philosophy back to the battlefield, we are left again with Kutuzov and Napoleon, both so swept up in the chain of events that nothing they can do can change anything.
While I’m still not quite convinced that the generals were as powerless as all that, nonetheless, Tolstoy’s reasoning is starting to convince me, if nothing else because of how often he beats me over the head with it in every chapter. (I might have said this elsewhere, but it’s starting to remind me of Oliver’s Stone’s JFK. Yes, it’s fiction and conjecture – but the conviction of the filmmaker is so strong, that you can’t help but believe that this is what really must have happened to JFK. So also with Tolstoy. Surely, we think, this must be what it was really like in the Napoleonic wars – this must have been what the generals were thinking.)
Most fascinating of all is Kutuzov, surrounded by little messages on all sides, all of which require him to make a decision. Can he really be said to make the best decision under the circumstances? Or does he really just make one decision out of many that he has to make because he has to do something? If later, it turned out to be a disaster, the history books will say that he chose badly. But if things turned out well, we’ll say that he did a good job and was a wise general.
But, really, at the time, did he really know whether one choice was better than another? I sometimes imagine that if time travel was ever invented, it would be fascinating to take people from different points of history and put them together. (E.g. letting Bach meet Beethoven, Beethoven meet Mahler.) It would be kind of fun to put Kutuzov and Tolstoy in a room together and see whether Kutuzov agreed that really nothing he personally did made much difference – or whether he’d get highly offended at the idea and take Tolstoy to task.
(Either way, I reckon Leo wouldn’t change his mind – because even if Kutuzov did think that he was personally responsible for winning the war, Tolstoy would still think he was deluding himself . . .)