Friday, September 12, 2008

The Impact of "War and Peace": On Reading Tolstoy in the 21st Century

On my desk are three copies of Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel, War & Peace. It is considered one of the greatest novels of all times though the author himself argued it was not, in fact, a novel at all. I would tend to agree with him but lacking any better term to describe it, “novel” it remains.

My oldest copy, one my father purchased before I was born, is the “Inner Sanctum Edition,” using the translation by Louise and Aylmer Maude originally published in the 1920s with a preface, here, dated 1942 (1351 pages). I have read this copy twice, starting it the first time during the summer between 5th and 6th grades during the Eisenhower years (I was a precocious little twit); the second time, while a graduate student at Eastman during the Viet-Nam War.

The other two copies, each weighing in at four pounds, are more recent purchases of my own: Anthony Briggs’ translation (at 1358 pages) came out in 2006; and the one by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (a.k.a. P/V), was new as of the fall of 2007 (at a mere 1215 pages), just a month or so after I bought the Briggs. I had made up my mind, for some reason, that it was time to read it again, and now I had two choices.

I began the P/V translation some time in mid-May. Curled up in a chair on a rainy day surrounded by sleeping cats, I managed to finish it on September 6th, the eve of the 196th Anniversary of the Battle of Borodino which forms the climax of War & Peace.

Without getting into a comparison of the translations, at this point, I would certainly recommend this edition to anyone approaching the novel for the first time. Be warned: Tolstoy includes a great deal of French in his original and while most other editions translate the French as well, P/V have followed Tolstoy’s own example by using footnotes for the translation. At first I found this bothersome, constantly glancing back and forth from the text down to the bottom of the page, especially when English (therefore originally Russian) phrases are interspersed within the French. But you begin to see a reason for this: historically, most of the aristocracy (the main characters of the novel) spoke French because it was felt Russian itself was too low class for their cosmopolitan viewpoint. During the course of the war, Tolstoy relates, several characters hired tutors to learn how to speak Russian. At parties, guests fined each other for speaking French in public. While it helped the occupying French forces to identify members of the nobility, it also allowed one of them, wearing a captured French uniform, to infiltrate a French army camp and gather information that helped the Russian partisans in the next day’s battle.

Some writers have said Tolstoy used French when the conversation was more superficial. As the book progresses, there is less and less of it. What that says, though, about the main character Pierre Bezukhov (who is always referred to by his French name rather than Pyotr Kirilovich), I'm not sure.

If the translator's intent was to capture Tolstoy's style as close to the original as a translator could get, then I was willing to put up with it. But I'll save that for a later post: this one is about my reactions to the novel after reading this translation.

The last 35 pages may have been the hardest schlog I’ve ever had to finish a book but having gotten that far, I wasn’t about to give up. It probably took me longer to read those seemingly soporific 35 pages than it did to plow through the previous 300: I kept putting off picking up the book to continue reading. And yet, they proved to be some of the most thought-provoking pages in the entire book, placing a great deal of it in perspective.

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Whatever possessed me to pick up my dad’s copy of War & Peace the summer of 1960, I have no idea. I spent many hours sitting on the back porch – the same porch I sat on while reading it again this summer – untangling its 500 characters, many of whom could be called by any number of variations on their names (Prince Andrei Bolkonsky could be Andrei Nikolaievich or Andryusha; or in French, André), several of them, like Marya Dmitrievna Akhrosimova, were mouthfuls for any American used to reading books whose heroes were named Ed.

Whatever else I may have gotten out of it at that time, I recalled it mostly as a book about War with its vivid battle scenes and about Peace with its brilliant images of Imperial Russian Society. I’m sure I skimmed through the philosophical essays on history and the nature of power, chapters that usually preceded the battle scenes. A book this long even had two epilogues: that first time through, though, I didn’t bother to read either of them, just paging through them to figure out who survived and who married whom and skipping over yet more philosophy (I was in 6th grade, cut me a break).

Not long afterwards, I found a recording of Prokofiev’s opera, War & Peace, and realized how much he had to cut out of the novel to make it work on the stage. It wasn’t until this last time through that I realized the scene which actually opens Prokofiev’s opera began on page 421!

I felt less guilty about skipping the philosophical ruminations on history, then: neither narrative nor essential to what passes for a plot, they’d ended up on the cutting room floor for both the opera and the two film versions I later saw based on the novel. I found out later there were even editions of the book that deleted those chapters, moving them to the back in an easily avoided appendix.

And what is the plot of this novel? A novel should have a plot, shouldn’t it? It’s a historical novel in that it takes place around historical events and many characters – like Napoleon and the Russian general Kutuzov – were historical figures. How does one reduce everything in this book to a 50-words-or-less summary?

It’s about... hmmm... Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812 and its impact on Russian life, especially as seen by several members of three fictional families: Count Pierre Bezukhov and his friend Prince Andrei Bolkonsky who falls in love with young Natasha, the daughter of Count Ilya Rostov whose son Nikolai figures as another major character. In the end, Moscow is burned, the French retreat and Russia is saved.

At 65 words, that only sets the stage for scratching the surface.

(One night, Johnny Carson mentioned on The Tonight Show he had seen the TV Guide listing for a film based on Tolstoy’s War & Peace, the stereotypical door-stop of a Great Book. He cited their infamous telescoping of movie plots: “A man goes to visit his sister.”)

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Then, re-reading it during the Viet-Nam war, I paid more attention to the historical essays and was surprised to find out, really, how much of an anti-war book it actually was. Tolstoy goes into great detail describing the anticipation of battle among the young men who are fighting, eager for glory, but now I found more telling the pages describing their fears and doubts about going into battle, the realization they could be killed at any moment, the impact the deaths of their fellow soldiers had on them, the long description of Prince Andrei lying wounded first on the battlefield at Austerlitz in 1805 and then again at the climactic scene of the Battle of Borodino (the battle that inspired Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”).
This battle involved some 250,000 men and ended with about 72,000 men dead on the field. Napoleon entered Russia with a Grand Army of some 442,000 men; by the end of the retreat, only 10,000 crossed back into Poland, the rest either dead, taken prisoner or deserting.

But I still didn’t bother to read the Epilogues. I don’t know why: after 1250 pages, what’s another 101?

This time around, with the new P/V translation, I discovered a lot more irony and sarcasm in the book, with quips like this buried in the text:

— ----- -------- ----- ---
After being freed from captivity, [Pierre] arrived in Orel, and on the third day after his arrival, as he was about to go to Kiev, he fell ill and spent three months lying ill in Orel; he had, as the doctors put it, “bilious fever.” Though the doctors treated him, let his blood, and gave him medications to drink, he nevertheless recovered.
Tolstoy, War & Peace (Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky’s translation, Alfred A. Knopf 2007, p.1102)
— ----- -------- ----- —

There are also passages which, with only slight adjustments for the century and the military technology involved, could’ve been coming out of the Pentagon today: the various spins given to how something supposedly failed could be hailed as a victory; the petty rivalries and lack of communication between generals; or this pungent sample of the Russian attitudes toward their former allies (for Tolstoy’s Prussians, think Bush’s French):

— ----- -------- ----- —
'The enemy of the human race' [Napoleon], as you know, is attacking the Prussians. The Prussians are our faithful allies who have betrayed us only three times in three years. We take up their cause. But it turns out that the enemy of the human race pays no heed to our fine speeches and in his savage and impolite manner falls upon the Prussians without giving them time to finish the parade they’ve begun, beats the stuffing out of them in two seconds, and installs himself in the palace at Potsdam.
- Tolstoy, War & Peace (ibid. p.372)
— ----- -------- ----- ---

In the first Epilogue, he describes the era of almost constant warfare with Napoleon at its center:

— ----- -------- ----- —
During this twenty-year period of time an enormous number of fields go unplowed; houses are burned; trade changes direction; millions of people become poor, become rich, migrate; and millions of Christians, who profess the law of love of their neighbor, kill each other.
- Tolstoy, War & Peace (ibid, p.1180).
— ----- -------- ----- ---

The book’s first extended essay on history, a preface to Napoleon’s invasion – the first chapter of Volume III (this link will take you to the corresponding chapter in Louise & Aylmer Maude’s translation) – is not about historical events but theorizing about the causes of historical events: why did Napoleon invade Russia? Why did the Russians abandon Moscow? Unlike our present-day wars which began with the attacks on September 11th, 2001, there was no single incident that ignited the French Invasion of 1812, no easy explanation that makes any kind of sense. Two brief paragraphs (as usual, from the P/V translation) clearly take you beyond this particular war at this particular time in history:

— ----- -------- ----- —
Fatalism in history is inevitable for the explanation of senseless phenomena (that is, those whose sense we do not understand). The more we try to explain sensibly these phenomena of history, the more senseless and incomprehensible they become for us.
- Tolstoy, War & Peace (ibid, p.605).

... When an apple ripens and falls – what makes it fall? Is it that it is attracted to the ground, is it that the stem withers, is it that the sun has dried it up, that it has grown heavier, that the wind shakes it, that the boy standing underneath wants to eat it?
Tolstoy, War & Peace (ibid, p.606).
— ----- -------- ----- —

He is constantly asking questions which then you begin to apply to more recent wars. We’ve learned in our history classes that World War I started because a terrorist from a small country killed the heir to the throne of a major power. We know that World War II began when Hitler invaded Poland. But what caused the terrorist to kill the Austrian archduke? If the answer is national pride, what led to this situation which then resulted in the assassination at Sarajevo that led to “the war [that unfortunately did not] end all wars”? What earlier decisions and events led to Hitler’s decision to invade Poland? What role did the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia play, with its sense of appeasement from the West, or the Anschluss of Austria? Then, too, how did American troops end up in Viet-Nam?

Perhaps the attacks on September 11th are not the real cause of today’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?

And more recently, how does this compare to the Russian invasion of the small republic of Georgia and its apparent attempt to absorb (or free) the break-away areas of Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia? Are we playing out these same “causes” for a future war (hot or cold) by professing a belief that Georgia should become a member of NATO which would then require the West to go to war with Russia to protect our ally from future aggression because that is what treaties do? Are we living in a time comparable to the summer of 1812 when, much to their surprise, the Russians found thousands of French troops inexplicably crossing their borders?

So, this third time through the novel, now influenced by a different time and having reached a different age, I’m feeling the impact of the book on a different level. Now, rather than being fascinated by the historical panorama of Napoleon’s Invasion and absorbed by the characters in Tolstoy’s fictional account of life in Russia at that time, I find myself thinking about this philosophical approach to the causes of history far beyond the era he describes. Though at times tedious reading (like this blog-post) compared to the swiftly moving accounts of battles or the emotionally riveting story-telling of the lives of Pierre Buzukhov, Prince Andrei and Natasha Rostov, I’m finding this the crux of my reaction to what I’d been reading. But many people engaged in the novel-like aspects of the book find these interpolated essays to be intrusive, boring digressions.

— ----- -------- ----- ---
The totality of causes of phenomena is inaccessible to the human mind. But the need to seek causes has been put into the soul of man. And the human mind, without grasping in their countlessness and complexity the conditions of phenomena, of which each separately may appear as a cause, takes hold of the first, most comprehensible approximation and says: here is the cause. In historical events (where the subject of observation is the actions of people), the most primordial approximations appears as the will of the gods, then as the will of those people who stand in the most conspicuous historical place – the historical heroes.
- Tolstoy, War & Peace (ibid, p.987).
— ----- -------- ----- ---

Throughout the book, the historical figures of Napoleon and the old Russian general Kutuzov (left) might be perceived as adversaries if it weren’t for the fact that Kutuzov is a kindly, bumbling old man who is viewed by everyone as the Wrong Man, compared to the self-assured, god-like Napoleon, the military genius. What explains the fact that Napoleon ruined his own army by taking Moscow, not because of any strategic plan on Kutuzov’s part and not in any battle but simply by being in the Wrong Place. The standard adage is that Napoleon was defeated by the Russian Winter, thousands of miles from home, without direct supply lines and encamped in a city set on fire – by whom? the Russians themselves in a patriot sacrifice or by the bivouacing French who, not aware they are in a city built primarily of wood, lit fires to cook their meals? – which means, without support and sustenance, they can only retreat. In their haste, thousands more men are lost to disease and the inhospitable conditions of the weather than through military action but also, as Tolstoy points out constantly (with a sharp sense of ironic wit), the total incompetence of the generals on both sides: there was no way the generals could control a mass of men driven by panic; there was no way the Russian generals could destroy them in battle because they couldn’t agree on a plan, did not have the technology to arrange their troops in the Right Place in time to do anything more than harry the already retreating French.

We learned in our history classes that American soldiers won the Revolution because the British soldiers could not understand guerilla warfare, offended that the enemy would not meet them on the open playing fields of War the way the art of warfare required. Marching like a parade through the forests, they were picked off one by one by snipers hiding behind the bushes.

The same thing happened to the French: at one point, Napoleon complains to Kutuzov that he is not playing by the rules (“as if,” Tolstoy adds parenthetically, “there are certain rules for killing people”). Several scenes, following the climactic burning of Moscow, show small bands of Russian troops, operating without anything like Central Command, following the demoralized French and nipping at their heels. (This reminded me of a long scene in which the Rostov family, one peaceful winter, goes hunting a wolf, Tolstoy spending pages describing how the dogs are deployed and what will happen when someone approaches the wolf from this direction and so on.) The French generals, unable to muster the troops to fight a single battle, do not know how to combat the mosquito-like partisan guerillas which only made the panic worse.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, American troops, now aided by the more advanced techniques of modern warfare, find it difficult to adapt to an Insurgency who uses not standard military tactics and technologies but, to us, morally incomprehensible suicide bombers to create terror among the troops and the civilian population. Without a government to fight, the United States is at a loss how to deal with the partisan geurillas which only makes the panic worse.

— ----- -------- ----- ---
All the ancient historians used one and the same method to describe and grasp the seemingly ungraspable – the life of a people. They described the activity of individual men who ruled the people; and this activity expressed for them the activity of the whole people. To the questions of how individual men made peoples act according to their will and what governed the will of these men themselves, the ancients answered the first question by recognizing the will of a divinity who subjected peoples to the will of one chosen man, and the second by recognizing that the same deity guided the will of the chosen one towards a predestined goal. For the ancients, these questions were decided by faith in the direct participation of a divinity in the affairs of mankind. Modern history, in its theory, has rejected both of these propositions.
Tolstoy, War & Peace (ibid, p.1179).
— ----- -------- ----- —

That was Tolstoy writing in the 1860s, belittling the attitude that such-and-such happened because of divine intervention or because it was God’s Will, otherwise inexplicable.

And yet today, viewpoints are expressed by government officials or those who would lead the government, that the War in Iraq is part of God’s Plan when vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, as Governor of Alaska, said this:

"Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God. That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan and that plan is God's will."

A former colleague of mine suggested earlier this year that a new “slogan” for public broadcasting could be “We tell you the truth.” My first reaction was “Who’s Truth?”

Tolstoy writes, in the second epilogue, about the definition of Power and asks the question “What force moves peoples?”

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One historian insists that the event was produced by the power of Napoleon; another insists that it was produced by the power of Alexander [the Russian Emperor]; a third by the power of some third person. Besides that, historians of this sort contradict one another even in explaining that force on which the power of one and the same person is based. Thiers, a Bonapartist, says that Napoleon’s power was based on his virtue and genius; Lanfrey, a republican [in the 19th Century European, non-monarchist sense of the word], says it was based on his swindling and on duping the people. So that historians of this sort, by mutually demolishing each other’s propositions, thereby demolish the concept of the force that produces events and give no answer to the essential question of history.
Tolstoy, War & Peace (ibid, p.1182-1183).
— ----- -------- ----- —

Today, voters who place themselves on the Right feel that those on the Left are on the Wrong Side of Truth. And vice-versa.

A friend just last night complained to me about the distortions being made of the political positions of his party and said “WE don’t do that – do we?” But, I told him, look at it from the standpoint of the other side, and it would appear it happens on both sides: you may not see it because it is what you believe. This is why we have sectarian wars and why agreements will never be reached by opposing sides who continue to distrust each other or feel that one is superior to the other. But that is an extension of the topic beyond the scope of my thoughts on Tolstoy, even though with his final pages still relatively fresh in my mind, it affects my thinking on these other issues as well.

And what is “the essential question of history”? Ten pages later, Tolstoy writes:

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What is the cause of historical events? Power. What is power? Power is the sum total of wills transferred to one person. On what condition are the wills of the masses transferred to one person? On condition that the person express the will of the whole people. That is, power is power. That is, power is a word the meaning of which we do not understand.
- Tolstoy, War & Peace (ibid, p.1193).
— ----- -------- ----- —

Thinking abstractly, historians develop a science of history that seeks to produce laws that can be comprehended with the same acceptable assurance as the law of gravity.

— ----- -------- ----- —
Reason expresses the laws of necessity. Consciousness expresses the essence of freedom.

Freedom, not limited by anything, is the essence of life in the consciousness of man. Necessity without content is man’s reason with its three forms.

Freedom is that which is examined. Necessity is that which examines. Freedom is content. Necessity is form.

Only by the separation of the two sources of cognition, which are related to each other as form to content, do we get the distinct, mutually exclusive, and unfathomable concepts of freedom and necessity.

Only by their union do we get a clear picture of the life of man.

Outside these two concepts, mutually defining in their union as form and content, no picture of life is possible.

- Tolstoy, War & Peace (ibid, p.1210).
— ----- -------- ----- ---

And here, in a way, is not just a scientific or philosophical approach to history but also to art, another important aspect of civilization, to defining a culture and one equally as baffling to define. As I sat back and thought how these ideas apply to the music I listen to or the music I compose, it also occurred to me this is the thread that binds together this whole “baggy monster,” as Henry James described the novel.

Tolstoy applies these issues to what happens to, what motivates, and what challenges his fictional characters just as much as he applies it to the historical figures and events. It is behind the arguments, expressed or otherwise, between Pierre who is always searching for meaning in his life (a man who lives more content than form) and the more self-assured Prince Andrei who tries to find ways to express himself within his role in society as an aristocrat and a soldier (decidedly, living form over content).

Curiously, as Tolstoy himself writes, these two major characters were patterned after different aspects of his own nature – the struggle, perhaps, we might express today as Right Brain versus Left Brain without ascribing it to any political principles – just as he based Andrei’s father, the Old Prince, on his own maternal grandfather, a character who is practically all form with a limited range of content that is decidedly out-moded.

Natasha, who clearly has no intellectual depth, living purely for the social life she seems to be destined for, understands neither Andrei (whom she had been engaged to) nor Pierre (whom she eventually marries). Her life, with all of its complications, is affected by what might seem fate, by a series of poorly made decisions (what caused her to give up Andrei to suddenly run off with the dashing Anatole Kuragin?) and the surface impressions of the social whirl her family lives in, a different level of content restricted by specific forms, clearly acceptable or not acceptable, and for which she, in her own responses, pays the consequences.

By applying these concepts of history not just to his interpretation of historical events and characters but to his fictional characters as well, Tolstoy creates a “picture of a life” that resonates in today’s world despite its backdrop. It is why, perhaps, there are no answers, only more questions by the end of the book – if this is not The Cause, what then caused that event? – and why the book transcends the idea of merely telling a story.

When Natasha becomes engaged to Prince Andrei, she cannot understand why he must “go abroad” for a year, on his father’s orders. It is her illogical decision to elope with the worthless cad Kuragin just a month before Andrei returns that changes her life. After the Battle of Borodino and the burning of Moscow, Natasha nursed the wounded Andrei and sat by his side as he died, then later discovered the love for Pierre who had just been, before all this, a family friend, though this too, of course, is more complicated than just what it seems on the surface. Before the novel proper ends (before the epilogues), before Pierre has proposed to Natasha, he decides for some unexplained reason to leave Moscow and go to Petersburg: Natasha, hoping for a happily married life without any further delays, perhaps sees a replay of the separation she had after her engagement to Andrei. In the final paragraph, she is talking to Prince Andrei’s sister, Princess Marya:

— ----- -------- ----- ---
“Only what is he going to Petersburg for!” Natasha said suddenly, and hastily answered herself: “No, no, it has to be so... Right, Marie? It has to be so...”
- Tolstoy, War & Peace (ibid p.1125)
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The first epilogue takes place seven years later: Pierre and Natasha have by then married and are raising their children. Prince Andrei’s sister Marya married Natasha’s brother, Nikolai Rostov, bringing all three major families together neatly at the end (or after the end) of the novel.

There is one character very much on the sidelines of everything and paid little attention to: Prince Andrei’s son by his first wife (she dies in childbirth just as Andrei returns from the War of 1805, having been given up for dead after the Battle of Austerlitz). Named after his stern grandfather, the Old Prince, Nikolenka (or Little Nicholas) does very little during his time on the page: he is born, he is ill, he is taught by a Swiss tutor, he is raised by his Aunt Marya in the general absence of his father and watches his father as he dies of his wounds. In the epilogue, now 15, Nikolenka is fascinated by his father’s friend, Pierre Bezukhov, and hangs on his every word, an influence that Nikolai Rostov (his uncle) thinks is unhealthy. Rostov and Pierre have a discussion about politics that make Rostov uncomfortable realizing Pierre is, shall we say, a Liberal and potentially dangerous to his thoughts about the Imperial Government. Sitting in the shadows of the room, Nikolenka absorbs all this; then, chastised by Uncle Nikolai for having been there at all, goes to bed. Waking up from a bad dream involving his disapproving uncle, he recalls the image of his protective father, a father he hardly knew:

— ----- -------- ----- ---
“Father,” he thought. “Father” (though there were two portraits of a good likeness in the house, Nikolenka never pictured Price Andrei in his human image) “father was with me and caressed me. He approved of me, he approved of Uncle Pierre. Whatever he says – I’ll do....” [Reflecting on the men he’s read about in Plutarch during his lessons, he decides to do the same kinds of things.] “I’ll do better. Everybody will know me, love me, admire me.”... ...”But Uncle Pierre! Oh, what a wonderful man! And father? Father! Father! Yes, I’ll do something that even he would be pleased with...”
- Tolstoy, War & Peace (ibid, p.1178).
— ----- -------- ----- ---

When the idea for the novel first came to Tolstoy, it was going to be about the Decembrist Uprising in 1825, following the death of Emperor Alexander I. But he decided, instead, to start earlier. The novel began to appear in magazine installments under the title “1805.” Only later did it become known as “War and Peace.”

But after reading the first 600 pages and realizing this is only a preface to the events at the heart of the book – the Napoleonic Invasion of 1812 – you begin to realize, in looking for the answer to “What caused Napoleon to invade Russia?”, Tolstoy is going back to find various possibilities from various events of the previous seven years (again, the number seven), events that are the repercussions of the French Revolution and leaving implicit the question “what caused the French Revolution?”

And here, at the end, Tolstoy implies the future: will Pierre with his liberal political views become involved in the Decembrist Uprising ten years later and will Nikolenka grow up with dreams of becoming a Great Man – perhaps a man with power – and will he follow Uncle Pierre into the fray?

So the question of “what caused the Decembrist Uprising” may be tied up in the ideas of a boy trying to emulate his father whose life was changed by the Invasion of 1812 which was caused by... and so on and so forth.

The War in Iraq (2003 and on-going) – after a quick and apparently easy invasion toppling the dictator Saddam Hussein but not finding the elusive “weapons of mass destruction” – was the response, rightly or wrongly, to the attacks of September 11th, 2001, masterminded by al-Qaida terrorists led by Osama bin Laden (remember him?) who devoted himself to the destruction of the United States because of its too influential presence in Saudi Arabia whose government was put in place by colonialist powers looking for political stability in the region early in the 20th Century.

As the War on Terror began, the American public wasn’t told to make sacrifices like earlier generations did in World War II and before: we were told to go shopping, to prove to the evil-doers that everything was normal here, to keep the economy strong and not give in to fear.

And yet people have wondered how, during the course of events, the Russian aristocracy could continue going to fancy-dress balls and party the night away when French troops were massing along their border.

The American Army, after the initial shock-and-awe leading up to their arrival in Baghdad – miles away from the purported villain who caused the attacks on September 11th – finds itself five years after “mission accomplished” mired down in inhospitable terrain much as the French found themselves in Moscow, achieving a goal they didn’t understand and, once attained, didn’t know what to do with.

And questions remain unanswered. Or unanswerable.

As Tolstoy wrote 140 years ago,

— ----- -------- ----- ---
...[M]odern history is like a deaf man, answering questions that no one has asked him.
- Tolstoy, War & Peace (ibid, p.1182).

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All quotations from Tolstoy’s War & Peace are taken from the Knopf edition of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky’s translation, published in 2007.

Illustration credits:
Top: uncredited portrait of Count Lev Nikolaievich Tolstoy, painted in 1868 at the time he was completing the novel, War & Peace.
2nd from Top: Napoleon observing the Battle of Borodino, painted in 1897 by Vasily Vereshchagin.
3rd from Top: The Raevsky Battery during the Battle of Borodino, part of a panorama painted in 1911-1912 for the Centennial Celebration of the Battle by Franz Alekseivich Roubaud
4th from Top: General Kutuzov, commander of the Russian Army, at Borodino (an uncredited, undated painting).
Bottom: Napoleons Retreat from Moscow, by German painter Adolf Northen (d.1876).

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