18 March 2020, The Tablet

Lent reflection

Lent reflection

Illustration: Catherine Pain


In her fourth meditation, a nun of Stanbrook Abbey invites us to see events and people more as God sees them, surrounded by a mystery beyond definition

I have recently been reading Jean-Paul Kauffmann’s brilliant account of Napoleon’s exile on St Helena, The Black Room at Longwood, first published in 1999. I knew little about Napoleon beyond Waterloo, so reading this sensitive portrayal of the Emperor’s declining years in captivity – Mr Kauffman had himself been held in captivity in Beirut for three years in the 1980s – has been a real eye-opener.

I came to realise that I had simply never seen beyond the legendary persona of Napoleon to the real human being. When discovering, for example, how this fallen hero managed to retain a degree of good-natured simplicity in his dealings with his entourage and could delight in playing with children and dogs, the scales of illusion fell from my eyes.

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