Reading for Saturday, 21 March

I really wasn’t sure what to make of this chapter. I’m not sure whether, if it were all in French, it would be an example of the Frenchman Michaud showing off his heroic (but rather empty) little speeches to the Tsar?

I’m not sure. Either way, it ends with the Tsar a bit happier about the whole issue of Moscow having been surrendered, and feeling like he can go on fighting . . . I don’t think anyone’s told him that Tolstoy thinks he has no influence on the course of history at all, otherwise he might feel more miserable.

But let’s not ruin the experience for him, okay? What’s the point of being Tsar, if history rolls right over the top of you?

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2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 12.3 – A Frenchman and the Tsar

  1. There certainly is a lot of French in this chapter (which, incidentally, made it terribly cumbersome to read in the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation because you have to keep jumping between the main text and the footnotes, often mid-sentence). I’m not sure whether it was Tolstoy’s intention or not, but for me the effect of all of that – and particularly of the Tsar’s passionate speech of love for his country, and deep disregrd for Naoleon and the French – is all the more ironic, simply by virtue of being spoken in French. It kind of shows us this clash of cultures, and yet they are cultures that are somehow inexorably linked to one another by their history. I may be reading too much into it, but it seems to me that this is another manifestation of a common theme in Tolstoy when he talks about war, where, in so many ways and at so many levels, he draws our attention to the shared and common humanity of the people who are fighting and killing one another.

  2. You didn’t know ‘what to make of it’? I don’t even know what it’s about – other than a messenger came and told the Tsar Moscow was abandoned. Of course the Tsar was upset. The messenger always gets it.

    I didn’t really find it all that interesting; unless I wanted to read it aloud and show off my French . . . which is good enough for reading the backs of soup cans.

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