This intense yet panoramic novel is based on an actual episode during the battle of Wagram, in Austria, as it appears in the diary of one of Napoleons generals: two cavalry regiments that did their best to annihilate each other before the gates of Vienna in 1809 belonged to the Prince of SaxeTeschen, and on his orders fought on opposing sides. Re-baptized SaxeSalza in the novel, the Prince, on the eve of the battle, transfers his wife's young lover from his own unit to the other regiment, so that he may kill and be killed by his brothers-in-arms. But long before that climactic moment, against the backdrop of the French Revolution, the fortunes of the Hapsburgs and the conquests of Napoleon, an exalting and terrifying love has engulfed Clemence of Saxe-Salza and Otto Apfelgrun. Diplomacy, court intrigue, the marching and countermarching of marvelously uniformed and accoutered toy soldiers, explodes in sudden carnage, and the love of Clemence and Otto is buried beneath a hundred thousand of the dying and the dead.
Gilles Lapouge is the author of numerous books--on Brazil, on piracy, on time, on the Spanish anarchists--in which history, anthropology, and an unusual poetic element seem to be happily fused.