This is the chapter during which Andrei becomes disillusioned with the military. There are men speaking in different languages, lost trying to communicate with each other in French, German, Russian.
And in the midst of it, Andrei surprisingly feels most for Pfuel - “He alone of all the persons there obviously desired nothing for himself, felt no enmity against anyone, and desired only one thing: the putting into action of a plan worked out according to a theory arrived at through years of labor.”
Here’s a thing I love about Tolstoy - he was speaking, in his own narrator’s voice, about the difficulty with Germans, and his dislike for them. And now, in this chapter, Andrei is finding he has the most human sympathy for this man who is just trying so hard and is nothing but frustrated. It’s the brilliance for me of him - the fluidity of the emotions and opinions of his characters. Andrei is by no means fickle, but we see how quickly things can change. Love it.
The big news is actually that Andrei becomes disillusioned - “What science can there be in a matter in which, as in any practical matter, nothing can be determined and everything depends on countless circumstances, the significance of which is determined at a certain moment, and no one knows when that moment will come?..A good commander not only does not need genius or any special qualities, but, on the contrary, he needs the absence of the best and highest human qualities - love, poetry, tenderness, as searching philosophical doubt. He should be limited, firmly convinced that what he is doing is very important (otherwise he would not have patience enough), and only then will he be a brave commander.” Witness General McChrystal who was fired last year forsaying incendiary things in a magazine. He sounds like he fits the bill. Andrei believes in the end it’s all about the men who are on the field, and not these people in this room.
And Andrei asks, after seeing this, to be assigned to the Army, “forever lost to the world of the court.” Not a bad thing. He came once again to his senses, but who knows - I think this happened before, right?
6 months ago