Plans and Anti-Plans
Today’s reading is one of the shortest in the novel. It starts by showcasing more of Prince Andrei’s diligence and intelligence. He has just completed his survey of the Russian and French troops and he immediately turns to planning for any contingency of action the French may take. He relies on historical analysis of past battles, the position of the troops, and his own intuition.
His brilliant thoughts are interrupted, however, when he overhears a nearby conversation. It’s Tushin and some other Russian troops. They’re discussing death. Get used to that. Death is a major topic and War and Peace and also, therefore, in A Year of War and Peace.
At any rate, as the men discuss death, death’s agent, in the form of a French cannon ball, lands just outside their tent and the Battle of Schöngrabern is on.
In this chapter the conversation about death centers around the question of why men are afraid of death? One conversant offers that it’s the uncertainty about what is beyond death that frightens men. Another says that afterlife or no afterlife, death’s check is in the mail so why fret? I like this. So does Marcus Aurelius.
Death is . . . an operation of nature; and if anyone is afraid of an operation of nature, he is a child.
Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations