I think a good contrary example to Tolstoy’s thesis would be a teacher and his students. I can spend all semester teaching every fact and detail to the class, engage all the students, grade all the papers, and assign all the homework, but come test time I have no control at all over the results. All I can do is sit at my desk and watch for cheaters.
But isn’t their success based on how well I prepared them
I like the image of Napoleon looking through his spyglass at the battle below and, in the eye piece seeing first Russians, then his own French, but then when he looked with his naked eye he could not make out anything. Such is how much control he had.
Tolstoy is going to beat this point to death, and I get it, I really do, but victory often comes from morale, and morale comes from leadership and training.
“Am I taken prisoner or have I taken him prisoner?” This sums up what war is: confusion, madness, irony, terror, and fear. To not even know who is “winning”, how could even the Generals know and lead such a mess?
“Now they will stop it, now they will be horrified at what they have done!” But only he sees the horror, only he cares about this. Just like how we don’t see the horror, we are like the generals
It’s unheard of now to go observe a battle taking place, but it did happen in the past (at least when battles were fought with rules of engagement). Now we cant even get independent media to show us what’s going on and that has badly sanitized war. We don’t see the suffering of our bombs, we don’t see the faces of ours and theirs dead. War is a carefully mediated abstract.
He ends chapter 2 with a description of how the German National party and its violence opened old wounds and laid the groundwork for the troubles to come. And he admits how his group were more worried about art than politics. They were unaware of the walls that would cave in on them a decade later.
He remarks how nice it was when flowers represented party membership (red carnation = socialist, white carnation = Christian social party) instead of top boots, daggers, and deaths heads.
I like how he knows how insular his world was, how his privileged upbringing did not represent millions of his countrymen.
He tells how out of all his comrades who were so enchanted by art, only he never lost that passion of youthful expression. Young poets became sober lawyers, but at least one was inspired.
We get another beautiful description of the field of battle, but something about it this time feels almost too overwhelming, too beautiful. Everything is in motion – like the trees at the end of Throne of Blood – and nothing is certain. Maybe it’s this movement that gives this scene a slight uneasy undercurrent, unlike the more placid scenes he painted for Austerlitz.
It’s sad how beautiful war can seem.
“While our good teachers were unsuspectingly correcting our essays with red ink for missing commas, we practiced criticism on each other with a severity, a knowledge of art, and an exactitude such as none of the official pontiffs of literature on our biggest newspapers applied to the classical masterpieces. “
“To admire talent ecstaticly in all its forms irresistibly leads to introspection, to see if it is not possible to discover some trace or possibility of this choicest of essences in one’s unexplored body or still cloudy soul.”
Zweig’s explanation of how someone so young (Hofmannsthal) could ignite the passions of youth, just like the young Napoleon had in his youth, patalles the world at the time bucking up against these old, stodgy Empire’s and were inspired to blow the world up.
“It is always an individual young person who achieves the unattainable for the first time in any field.”
that magical knowledge which is peculiar to the immature
“young people discover their poets because they wish to discover them”
les gens celebres etaient pour moi comme des dieux qui ne parlaient, ne mangeaient pas comme les autres hommes: these famous people who did not speak were like gods to me, they did not eat as other men. At the time that was poplar culture, no different than today, though then art tried to actually do more than make people happy.