German universities dated to medieval times when it was hard to attract students so students were allowed certain privileges (such as not being allowed to be arrested by local police) and this class division was still present in his youth. Students could duel and were counted as an elite club in society.
he’s envious of the youth of the 40s with their equality of the sexes and their freedoms. Though he does add that self denial and awe of the forbidden increases enjoyment. Still, he’s not nostalgic to go back to the old ways.
“Now we lack the wine, now we lack the cup.” He talks about how people had more individual freedom (no passports, no questions of religion, no state ideologies), but they were morally imprisoned. Now people are more free morally and less so individually.
this outcast was only applied to the poor, girls of “society” who prostituted to the rich were even celebrated.
so prostitution was “legal” but if they customer refused to pay the agreed price she had no legal grounds to protection. Legal, but morally outcast from the law.
he argues that the decrease in prostitution was due to a lack of demand because the middle class world of pseudo morality no longer existed and so people didn’t need to go sneaking around for it. He also implies that as working conditions improved and people didn’t need to work so much that they all had more free time to mingle outside their own classes.
This is a very memorable chapter, not because anything unexpected happens – we know Moscow will be abandoned and that Kutuzov will “have to pay for the broken crockery”, but because of little Malasha who watched innocently these proceedings. She has no idea what’s at stake here, all she knows is she loves Granddad and does not like Long-coat. We see how simple this all is and also how terrible. Brilliant.
“Have I really allowed Napoleon to reach Moscow, and when did I do so? When was it decided?”
This is one of those moments we all have when we sit up late at night wondering about our lives. Had we really intended to be at this point in our life in such-and-such a way (for good or bad, though people tend not to dwell on the good). Innumerable decisions brought us here, but not one by itself.
One thing I very much agree with is that when we want to study or judge something or someone, we have to try to see it in as many lights as possible, to understand that what may have seemed like a bad decision was actually the only possible decision because of all the surrounding circumstances. we have to be careful about judging because we can’t know all the forces acting on us or anyone.
Tolstoy’s frustration with the study of history isolated from the events around the event being studied probably comes from him wanting to write a novel about the Decemberists but kept having to go back and back and instead wound up writing this novel then ever even gets to that point in time.
He’s so focused on there being a “right” way to study history, but all we can hope to do is just a better job.
Tolstoy creates a fascinating image of the French army’s inertia carrying it to Moscow but once there is a wounded, bleeding beast that must retreat though having gained its prize. You feel the force of all Napoleon in this image having rolled all the way across all Europe, but like the fox or a wolf that was wounded but is still dangerous. Kutuzov is like Uncle and will finish it off patiently.
Not knowing the history very well I can’t say what the agreed opinions are on what might have happened if the French had won the war, but knowing the role Russia played in 20th century politics I can imagine it would have been a very different Europe. I doubt most of the strife from the Balkans would have been averted (hence WW1) but had Europe been more unified, less “sick” then, maybe Napoleon was right?