Dear Bernhard Cornwell,
I just got a hold of your recent book on Waterloo. Reading, in your preface, how you found the complexity of the battle overwhelming when trying to write a fictional account, I thought you might find the following story somewhat amusing. Around 1830, Honoré de Balzac tried to write a two-volume novel that would take one single Napoleonic battle as its protagonist. As he puts it in his diary, he wants to describe absolutely everything. But for over two years he suffers from writer's block. He tries every means possible, buys maps, visit the battlefields, etc., but in the end he has to abandon the project All he managed to write was this: "La Bataille, First Chapter, Gross-Aspern, 16 May, 1809 toward noon..." When he read Stendhal's famous description of the Battle of Waterloo some years later, he was full of envy and praise. I wrote a bit on this and more generally on the difficulty writer's had of representing Napoleonic battles in the last chapter of my book "Empire of Chance. The Napoleonic Wars and the Disorder of Things" in case you are interested. At any rate, I look forward to reading the rest of your book!
Thank you! I look forward to reading Empire of Chance which, to my shame, I haven’t seen.