Thursday, May 30, 2013

What Tolstoy FORGOT to Say about Napoleon in "War & Peace"

Leo Tolstoy's "War & Peace" is considered one of Russia's greatest novels. As Wikipedia puts it "'War & Peace' delineates in graphic detail events surrounding the French invasion of Russia, and the impact of the Napoleonic era on Tsarist society, as seen through the eyes of five Russian aristocratic families." First published in full in 1869, the novel was a Victorian-era best seller and was soon translated from Russian into a variety of other languages.

Amongst the sprawl of people and events in "War & Peace" one towers above the others - the man without which there would (in a real sense) be no "War & Peace." This man is Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), pictured left with his son. Napoleon was not a work of fiction, he was a real person (and a real ruler); his presence dominates "War & Peace", he is the catalyst through which human nature is revealed and history unfolds.

Tolstoy has made little attempt to 'fictionalise' Napoleon; the author has drawn him directly from history. But has Tolstoy drawn him directly from life?

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