The Battle: A Novel

Rambaud, Patrick

Published by Grove Press, 2001
ISBN 10: 0802138101 / ISBN 13: 9780802138101
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Synopsis: The winner of the Prix Goncourt and Grand Prix du Roman de l'Academie Francaise, The Battle is a brilliant, compelling novelization of the battle of Essling, Napoleon's first major defeat. The battle of Essling has long been overlooked by historians and novelists, but Rambaud, relying on research notes compiled by Honore de Balzac, has re-created the confrontation with exceptional skill.

Balzac had always wanted to write this novel, but he never moved past the research stage. Picking up where his predecessor left off, Rambaud renders the epic battle in all its pageantry, violence, and chaos. The Battle opens on May 16, 1809, as Napoleon's forces confront the assembled armies of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at Essling, near Vienna. Angered by the Austrians' challenge to his rule over their land, Napoleon is determined to crush the enemy troops with the quick maneuvers that won so many previous battles. Yet the French soon find that the wide-open Austrian plains are not conducive to their techniques, as the enemy's sheer manpower begins to overwhelm them.

From the Inside Flap: Winner of the Prix Goncourt and Grand Prix du Roman de l'Academie Francaise

A work of extraordinary reimagination, The Battle captures the brutality and heroism of one of the great conflicts of the nineteenth century: the Battle of Essling, Napoleon's first major defeat on land.

This is a novel that Honore de Balzac always wanted to write. He conducted extensive research and even visited the scene of the conflict. Balzac's goal was to plunge the reader into all the beauty and horror of a battlefield. But his attention was divided among many projects, and he never moved beyond the research stage. Now, a century and a half after his death, Patrick Rambaud has studied Balzac's research notes and written the novel Balzac longed to create.

The Battle opens on May 16, 1809, as Napoleon's forces appear to confront the assembled armies of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at Essling, near Vienna. Angered by the Austrians' challenge to his rule over their land, Napoleon is determined to crush the enemy and reestablish his dominance.

Launching their attack from an island in the middle of the Danube, the French troops quickly occupy the neighboring towns of Aspern and Essling as the villagers flee before them. Settling down for the evening, the French anticipate certain victory the next day. On the first day of battle, however, the Austrians execute a series of surprise moves that threaten to encircle Napoleon's troops. The French counterattack with cannon and a cavalry charge, and the battle soon become truly horrific. By the second day the troops are fighting hand to hand as they slip on the entrails of the corpses that litter the battlefield. Finding themselves overwhelmed by the Austrians' sheer manpower, Napoleon's army retreats under the cover of night and attempts to recover from the devastating loss.

As he reenacts this battle, Rambaud displays a masterful eye for detail, and he brings to life the real people of the time, from the lowest-ranked soldiers to the writer Stendahl. Napoleon himself is also vividly portrayed, and we see him in all his brillance, petulance, and profound insecurity. These characters take on a breathtaking immediacy as they struggle to cope while the battle descends into a maelstrom of terror and butchery. Nearly 40,000 men died in a mere forty-eight hours, and Rambaud has graphically re-created the experience of warfare at the height of savagery.

"A gripping epic of war."--Le Figaro

"Meticulous research--no detail is left unexamined--has invested this account with the allure of an epic."--Anita Brookner

"The Battle reads like a charge of German lancers: at full gallop.... Balzac would have approved: it smells like smoke."--L'Express

"Balzacian in the best sense of the word--bursting with vitality, and with a life and a spirit most contemporary novels are cruelly lacking--The Battle is a book that carries you away, that you reread, then reread again, with yielding terror, admiration, and happiness."--Le Figaro Litteraire

"Everything has a gripping power, color, and precision, and the reader...enters headfirst into the picture...carried away with a horrified contentment by the gusts of a dark Napoleonic fury."--Le Monde des Livres

"Rambaud recounts a historical bloodbath with verve and precision, and a great sense of storytelling. His craftsmanship has earned him the scepter to the empire of letters."--Les Echos

Patrick Rambaud was a cofounder of Actuel in 1970, where he wrote for fourteen years. Alone or in collaboration he has written over thirty books, parodies, and novels. He lives in France.

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Title: The Battle: A Novel
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication Date: 2001
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: Used: Good

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