And after reminding us that the French weren’t all that great, Tolstoy reminds us that the Russians weren’t so bad after all, as he constructs a defence for why the Russians just let the French go.

I’ll let you read it for yourself, but it makes me wonder whether there is some sort of critical book on War and Peace that goes through and compares Tolstoy with all the historians of the period, etc.

I tried hunting around Google for one and came across this title, with no Amazon reviews (and no wonder, because it’s horrendously expensive).

I also sometimes get a bit wary about knowing too much about the creation of a great piece of art, because sometimes you can analyse all the fun out of something.

But by the same token, how much more do we enjoy the Ring Cycle nowadays because of what we know about motifs, etc? So it could be really interesting.

Anyway, this brings us to the end of Book 14. We have one Book and two Epilogues left to go . . . I’m going to have to give some thought to what I’m going to do with my blog post-Tolstoy . . .

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2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 14.19 – In Defence of the Russians

  1. I, too, often wonder how Tolstoy’s version and analysis of the events stacks up against others, and how it was received at the time. I guess most accounts of history are, to some degree, shaped by the philosophies and politics of the people telling the story and so, in that sense, history will always be at least a little bit “subjective”, I think. As I think I’ve mentioned here before, I think there are some benefits in reading Tolstoy’s analysis at such a distance – in time and space – from the actual events, because we can appreciate his analysis in a more abstract, removed sort of way. So we can be very impressed by his argument that history is created by the masses, not by the leaders, without getting too embroiled in the detail of how he explains what happened in 1812. And, of course, we can allow ourselves to more easily appreciate the skill and poetry of the writing which, I think, even in these relatively didactic chapters, is still so extraordinary – just look at that tremendous description of the Russian soldiers, starving and dying in the winter … it’s great writing, regardless of what you might think of the historical point he is making.

    I’m very tempted to buy that book you discovered, Matt!!

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