This rather caught me by surprise – I’ve always been used to the Books in War and Peace being like little novellas – they all sort of build to a climax of their own before they end.

But here we have nothing, really. There’s no big battle, no one dies or has a cathartic moment. In fact, most of our main characters have gone AWOL for most of this book.

All we have is the French army limping through the Russian countryside, disintegrating. Dave mentioned this in the comments to my last post, but I’ve got to put this up in a post properly as well – here’s a statistical map, showing the size of the French army as they approach and then retreat from Moscow.

Not only is it a great example of poster art, it shows me straight away why the French were so keen to get out of there. If you look really closely, you’ll also notice that what really killed them off is the cold weather – as the temperature dropped lower and lower, more and more of Napoleon’s army died.

Oddly enough, this is very similar to what happened to the German army during World War II, when they invaded Russia.

On a final note, however, the fragmentary unresolved nature of the ending of this Book very much echoes what the French must have felt – that nothing was really resolved, there was no proper ending. Everything is just kind of petering out.

See you for Book 14.

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6 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 13.19 – Wanting to Leave

  1. It is precisely this sense of “petering out” which I find so strong and remarkable in the picture painted here of the French … like a clock winding down. I also found it interesting how here, as in other places, Tolstoy paints Kutuzov’s greatness not in the way he leads the events, but rather in the way he understands them. have no idea whether this ability to know when to stand back, and let things take their own course, and to read the mood and status of things so well, was really a characteristic of Kutuzov or not but, in making it such a feature of the Kutuzov of War and Peace, it makes an effective contrast with Napoleon who always fancied himself as the one who was driving everything. It’s like the two opposing views of history are captured in the characters of Kutuzov and Napoleon.

  2. I just wanted to add something . . . if (horrors of horrors), it ever happens that something goes wrong and we lose this blog (sometimes a site can go down and leave y’all standin’ – I’ve seen it), well I have a copy of just about every post we’ve made.

    Just kept copy/pasting into Word documents I set up for each book and recorded our comments.

  3. That’s an awesome idea. I might get a copy of it from you when I’ve finished. Maybe I could put a book together that is a one-year reading guide for War and Peace? (I’d really have to beef up some of those posts, though – there have been some days where I haven’t really had a clue what to write or say and somehow stumbled through the post . . .)

  4. You are welcome to all or part of it – drop me a line and let me know what e mail addy you want them to go to – I can send the word docs as attachments now – everything I have so far – or, we can wait till we’re finished the book, whatever you like.

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