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War and Peace

War and Peace


by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace Warfare Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Volume.Part.Chapter.Paragraph). We used Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's translation.

Quote #1

And the conversation turned again to the war, to Bonaparte, and to today's generals and statesmen.  The old prince [Bolkonsky] seemed to be convinced not only that all present-day men of action were mere boys, who did not even understand the ABC's of military and state affairs, and that Bonaparte was a worthless little Frenchman who was successful only because there were no Potemkins and Suvorovs to oppose him; but he was also convinced that there were no political difficulties in Europe, nor was there a war; but only some sort of marionette comedy that today's people played at, pretending they meant business. Prince Andrei cheerfully endured his father's mockery of the new people, and provoked his father to talk and listened to him with obvious delight. (

Why does Andrei find this conversation delightful? Is he mocking his soon-to-be-senile father? Or is there something about his father's nostalgic conservatism that Andrei appreciates?

Quote #2

Though the wording of the order seemed unclear to the regimental commander and the question arose of how to take the wording of the order—in marching uniform or not?—in the council of battalion commanders it was decided to present the regiment for review in parade uniform, on the grounds that it is always better to bow too much than not to bow enough. And so the soldiers, after a twenty mile march, without a wink of sleep, spent the whole night mending and cleaning [...] and by morning the regiment, instead of the straggling, disorderly crowd it had been the day before, during the latest march, was a well ordered mass of two thousand men, each of whom knew his place, his duty, each of whose buttons and straps was in its place and sparkling clean.  [...] There was only one circumstance with regard to which no one could be at ease. This was footgear. More than half the men had their boots falling to pieces. But this shortcoming was not the regimental commander's fault, since, despite his repeated requests, the Austrian department had not released a supply, and the regiment had walked seven hundred miles. [...] The adjutant had been sent from headquarters to confirm to the regimental commander what had been said unclearly in the previous day's order, namely, that the commander in chief wished to see the regiment in exactly the same condition it had been in on the march—in greatcoats, in dustcovers, and without any preparations. (

This is a surreal passage about the often asinine quality of bureaucracy in large organizations. Seriously, this kind of miscommunication – and its effect of making a whole regiment of exhausted men miss a night of sleep over a stupid misunderstanding – sounds like something out of Kafka or Joseph Heller's Catch-22.

Quote #3

Looking down over the railing, Prince Nesvitsky saw the swift, noisy, low waves of the Enns, which, merging, rippling, and swirling around the pilings of the bridge, drove on one after the other. Looking at the bridge, he saw the same monotonous living waves of soldiers, shoulder braids, shakos with dustcovers, packs, bayonets, long muskets, and under the shakos faces with wide cheekbones, sunken cheeks, and carefree, weary faces, and feet moving over the sticky mud that covered the planks of the bridge. Occasionally, amidst the monotonous waves of soldiers, like a spray of white foam on the waves of the Enns, an officer pushed his way through, in a cape, with his physiognomy distinct from the soldiers'; occasionally, like a chip of wood swirled along by the river, a dismounted hussar, an orderly, or a local inhabitant was borne across the bridge by the waves of infantry; occasionally, like a log floating down the river, a company's or an officer's cart floated across the bridge, surrounded on all sides, loaded to the top, and covered with leather. (

What a cool combination of a metaphor followed immediately by a Homeric simile (see "Writing Style"). First, we've got the soldiers described as if they are the waves themselves ("swift, noisy, low waves of the Enns" and the "same waves of soldiers"). Then that straight-up equivalence is transformed into an extended comparison, epic-style, of the way the army is moving to the way random bric-a-brac floats by.

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