War and Peace
How we cite our quotes:
On the way home, Prince Andrei could not help asking Kutuzov, who was sitting silently next to him, what he thought about the next day's battle. Kutuzov looked sternly at his adjutant, paused, and said: "I think the battle will be lost, and I said so to Count Tolstoy and asked him to convey it to the sovereign. And what do you think he replied? Eh, mon cher général, je me mêle de riz et des côtelettes, mêlez-vous des affaires de la guerre. [Ah, my dear general, I'm involved in rice and cutlets, involve yourself in matters of war.] Yes . . . That was the answer I got!" (126.96.36.199-32)
This is the first sense we get that Kutuzov will be a lot more willing than anyone else to speak truth to power. Later, he'll be the only one arguing with Alexander about war strategy.
After reaching home Nicholas was at first serious and even dull. He was worried by the impending necessity of interfering in the stupid business matters for which his mother had called him home. To throw off this burden as quickly as possible, on the third day after his arrival he went, angry and scowling and without answering questions as to where he was going, to Mitenka's lodge and demanded an account of everything. But what an account of everything might be Nicholas knew even less than the frightened and bewildered Mitenka. The conversation and the examination of the accounts with Mitenka did not last long. [...] [T]he young count, red in the face and with bloodshot eyes, dragged Mitenka out by the scruff of the neck and applied his foot and knee to his behind with great agility at convenient moments between the words, shouting, "Be off! Never let me see your face here again, you villain!" [...] Next day the old count called his son aside and, with an embarrassed smile, said to him:
"But you know, my dear boy, it's a pity you got excited! Mitenka has told me all about it. [...] You were angry that he had not entered those 700 rubles. But they were carried forward and you did not look at the other page." (188.8.131.52-10)
There's an interesting power play here between the aristocratic masters and their serfs. On the one hand, Nikolai owns the serf and can beat him (or even kill him) without any legal issues. On the other hand, the serf is the only one who knows how to do the books for the estate, so the masters have to rely on him for all their financial matters. Who has the upper hand?
After all that Napoleon had said to him those bursts of anger and the last dryly spoken words: "I will detain you no longer, General; you shall receive my letter," Balashev felt convinced that Napoleon would not wish to see him, and would even avoid another meeting with him – an insulted envoy – especially as he had witnessed his unseemly anger. But, to his surprise, Balashev received, through Duroc, an invitation to dine with the Emperor that day. [...] Napoleon met Balashev cheerfully and amiably. He not only showed no sign of constraint or self reproach on account of his outburst that morning, but, on the contrary, tried to reassure Balashev. It was evident that he had long been convinced that it was impossible for him to make a mistake, and that in his perception whatever he did was right, not because it harmonized with any idea of right and wrong, but because he did it. (184.108.40.206-3)
Hmm...guess the old saying is right – all power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Constantly surrounded by kowtowing yes-men, Napoleon has basically lost all self-awareness.