Reviews: Books of General Interest



Napoleon on Love

Frayling, Christopher. Napoleon Wrote Fiction. New York : Saint Martin's Press, 1972.

I did not know that Napoleon was an expert on love until I read his The Dialogue on Love. Written in either June or July 1791, it is a Socratic dialogue which begins in the middle of a heated argument between Napoleon himself and his friend and fellow graduate of the Ecole Militaire, Alexandre des Mazis.

According to Christopher Frayling, an Exeter University scholar who edited and translated The Dialogue on Love (in his book Napoleon Wrote Fiction), the dialogue's most striking feature is a sense of immediacy of the spoken word and of realistic character study that are genuinely taken from life.

Frayling then goes on to explain that in the dialogue Napoleon allows des Mazis to defend his position thoroughly then destroys what has been said with a barrage of social and political theories and obviously tried hard to adapt his style to the personalities of the two people in the dialogue. To compare and contrast the personalities of the two speakers, Napoleon shows des Mazis as an impatient, self-indulgent, and immature man while Napoleon is shown as a taciturn man.

Being a discussion about love, Napoleon certainly makes his friend and himself say interesting things on the advantages and disadvantages of love. For example, in the first two paragraphs of the dialogue Napoleon stated that love is harmful to society, to the individual happiness of men. In defense of love, des Mazis countered by saying that love gives life to the whole of nature, source of everything creative and of all happiness.

What Napoleon is basically saying is that love is corrupting his friend and that des Mazis should do something more useful to society.

Source:

Frayling, Christopher. Napoleon Wrote Fiction. New York: Saint Martin's Press, 1972, 77-88, quoted and paraphrased.

Reviewed by Ira Grossman October 2002

 

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