Thursday, April 21, 2011

Collage 380

This passage is about the letter that the tsar of Russia, Alexander, writes to Napoleon. Lynn certainly captures the feeling of war in this piece. Not that I've ever seen such a thing, but it looks like a bullet wound to flesh. The tone of the letter is so courtly, so "gentlemanly". You wonder, what was he thinking? Just wishful thinking that somehow this plea would stop Napoleon's invasion?

"Monsieur my brother,

I learned yesterday that despite the loyalty with which I have kept my promises to Your Majesty, your troops have crossed the borders of Russia, and I have just received a note from Petersburg in which Count Lauriston announces, as the cause of this aggression, that Your Majesty has considered himself in a state of war with me from the moment when Prince Kurakin asked for his passports. The motives upon which the duke of Bassano based his refusal to deliver them to him would never have made me suppose that this step could ever serve as a pretext for aggression. Indeed, this ambassador was never authorized to take it, as he has declared himself, and as soon as I was informed of it, I made known to him how much I disapproved of him ordering him to remain at his post. If Your Majesty is not intent on shedding the blood of our peoples for a misunderstanding of this sort and consents to withdraw his troops from Russian territory, I will regard what has occurred as canceled and and an agreement between us will be possible. In the contrary case, Your Majesty, I will find myself forced to repel an attack which nothing on my part has provoked. It still depends on Your Majesty to spare humanity the calamities of a new war. I remain, etc. (signed) Alexandre.

Napoleon must have laughed when he read this. I note the capital letters of "Your Majesty" and the passive sentence construction. And his sign-off with just his name, not "tsar of Russia" or some grand title. -- Lola

Lynn Waskelis
from page 15-16, Volume II of original text
collage, pigment, ink
made 2/11/11
page 611-613 Pevear/Volokhonsky translation

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