Monday, August 23, 2010

Volume III, Book I, Chapter VII

Balashov, after that encounter with Napoleon, is invited to dinner with him. Napoleon of course spends the entire time trying to get a rise out of him by saying things about Russia, finally pulling his ear (literally) and asking him why Balashov didn’t say anything in response to Napoleon’s saying that Alexander shouldn’t try to take charge of an army and should just stay in his business ruling.

It turns out having your ear pulled “Avoir l’oreille tirĂ©e avec l’Emperueur” by the Emperor is a great honor.

Napoleon lets go, asked if the horses are ready for Balashov to go, and then tells him to take his, since he’ll have a long way to go.

“All the details of the conversation were conveyed to the Russian emperor, and the war began.”

It’s clear from this chapter what a hothead Napoleon is. He’s been equated with that for most of the time since. His tirade in this chapter about throwing the Germans out is almost ecstatic in its anger – he blows up for no reason. So Tolstoy is definitely painting him as an ego out of control. Makes sense – there seemed to be no limit to his ambition. You have to wonder about when these people get into power, and be thankful that most despots stop at their own country. When they are outsize like Napoleon, or Hitler, you have to be thankful they are defeated, as once they have what they want you can’t help but think they’d then start destroying what they have. That kind of ego is never satisfied.

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