Reading for Friday, 8 May

I think it’s time again to break out this poster:


This is pretty much a picture of what Tolstoy is describing. Look how thick the tan line is heading from left to right – that thick line represents Napoleon’s forces as they entered Moscow – strong, with lots of men.

That black line heading from right to left is Napoleon’s forces on the way back – dying off, getting smaller and more pathetic by the day.

You see it like that, and you realise how utterly Russia decimated those forces.

But Tolstoy says it best of all:

And althought they addressed each other as “majesty”, “highness”, and “mon cousin”, they all felt that they were pitiful and loathsome creatures, who had done a great wrong, for which they had now to pay the penalty. And in spite of their pretence of caring for the army, each was thinking only of himself, and how to make his escape as quickly as possible to safety.

One thought on “One-Year War and Peace 14.16 – Disintegration

  1. It certainly is a very marked disintegration of the French army here, almost, it seems, falling apart from within, even more than because of the external forces upon it. And here, in this chapter, we see another incarnation of that drive to denial, which we saw earlier in Pierre’s inability to engage with the dying Karataev. But here it is writ large, in the French army’s inability to recognise its own death throes. It’s seems to have become a horde of men, trudging along in the snow, unable or unwilling to notice that its very soul has now gone – almost, indeed, the queenless beehive that was Moscow not so long ago.

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