Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Volume I, Book III, Chapter XI

Strategy. This is Andrei with Dolgorukov and Bilibin, talking about strategy for upcoming battle at Austerlitz. Dolgorukov thinks Napoleon is afraid, and retreating, while Kuzutov thinks they're going to lose. The strategy is more complicated, and Andrei is trying to show his superior ideas, but it doesn't look like there's a chance for them. Bilibin and Dolgorukov are sure of victory.

The thing that struck me most is the elaborate clock metaphor. It's elaborate - six paragraphs - but compares the workings of the army and war to the machinery of a clock. The metaphor gets larger, but compares the troops to machinery that is still until the exact moment it moves (six miles of soldiers), and once movement has hit that part of the machinery it suddenly lurches forward. It's a great metaphor.

As in a clock the result of the complex movement of numberless wheels and pulleys is merely the slow and measured movement of the hands pointing to the time, so also the result of the all the complex human movements of these hundred and sixty thousand Russians and French -- all the passions, desires, regrets, humiliations, suffering, bursts of pride, fear, rapture -- was merely the loss of the battle of Austerlitz, the so-called batter of the three emperors, that is, a slow movement of the world-historical hand on the clockface of human history.


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