Reading for Tuesday, 10 March
The novel continues along in its stunning breakdown of society. In brilliant prose, Tolstoy describes how the French arrive as an army – but then disappear. Like a big sponge, the soldiers are all soaked up and disappear, each of them becoming looters and scroungers.
As well as describing what clearly was one of the most momentous events in Russian history, this story backs up Tolstoy’s theory by showing that when the group put their mind to something, no commander can hold them back.
In this case, the group want to loot and pillage – so no commanders can hold back the Frenchmen. Thus, despite any orders Napoleon might give to the contrary – it’s his men that are driving the events here.
In the same way, the great fire of Moscow (can you really claim to be a great city if you haven’t had a great fire whip through your city at some stage?) begins – was it started by anyone? No, says Tolstoy, it was an inevitable event that was bound to happen. Wooden buildings + no one to look after them = fire.
We’ll see what the human consequences of this equation turn out to be tomorrow.