Shows how fast I read this book last time (and the Bondarchuk movie doesn’t really show what happened to Kutuzov), but I don’t remember this standing down that happened to Kutuzov.

It’s quite sad, but it also lifts Kutuzov up to the ranks of those great military film characters who do great things in the service of war, but are ultimately unappreciated for it.

I’m thinking particularly of two films here – the one and only Lawrence of Arabia, which I’ve loved since I was a teenager. The ending (sorry, if this is a spoiler, but really, where have you been?), where Lawrence gets a promotion for his work, but sent back to England for ignoring the British and trying to “free” the Arabs, is very similar to this.

And then there is Patton, where George C Scott plays the feisty, unpredicatable general during WWII. It’s quite clear as the movie unfolds, that Patton achieved many great things, but his personality is so abrasive, that ultimately, the army can’t deal with him – and he is sent home.

And here we see it happening to Kutuzov. He’s done so much, and yet he won’t give the final few fights the Russian commanders want to see, and so he knows he’s about to be stood down.

Of course, it could be that he really did nothing while he was a commander and that the Tsar was quite right to give him the boot. Even reading Tolstoy’s version of events and reading between the lines, it does sound like he was quite happy to just let things happen without committing to too much action.

But I’ll put my cynical voice aside, and just accept the sad, reality in this novel of Kutuzov not being recognised for his victory.

One thought on “One-Year War and Peace 15.10 – The Standing Down

  1. I think your approach is the only one we can take here, Matt – out aside whatever cynicism we might have about the historical Kutuzov, and accept the version with which Tolstoy presents us here for its own merits. And if we can do that, then we cannot help but be moved by this chapter, which, as was the case for you, I had completely forgotten. There is some even pathetic in the Kutuzov we see here – hardly able to make it down the stairs, fat and unsteady, bursting into tears, and completely resigned to his own insignificance. I can’t remember having felt any particular sympathy towards Kutuzov during my first reading – but I certainly have felt a lot through this reading, and so this chapter really touched me quite deeply.

    And speaking of things that touch us deeply – how’s that little boy of yours coming along, Matt?

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