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War And Peace

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I'm surprised that there is no thread on this book, as I know that some members have read it. But maybe only Topcat has actually finished it, which he did in an amazing 24 hours.

If anyone else wants to attempt that, I would recommend taking care over which translation you choose. Topcat read a ginormous 1358 page volume. The two newest translations are shorter one at 1285 pages, and the other. 2/3 the size, at a slimline 898.

 

 

By CAROLE GOLDBERG | Courant Books Editor

In this corner, weighing in at 1,285 pages (counting the introduction, epilogue and endnotes), it's the formidable new version of the classic Russian novel, translated by the esteemed tag team of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace"!

 

And in this corner, at 898 pages, counting the introduction and notes - and spoiling for a fight - is the translation by Andrew Bromfield of what is billed as the "original version" of Tolstoy's 1869 masterpiece. Ladies and gentlemen, let's hear it for the other "War and Peace"!

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I've read it. Many years ago. All I remember now is the complicated names and the sense of great events being played out. I think i enjoyed it. :rolleyes:

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..I would recommend taking care over which translation you choose.

I spent an hour or so sitting on the floor in Waterstones reading the first 2 chapters of every edition that they had to find the one with language that suited me. In the end I opted for the Oxford Worlds Classics edition which, if I remember correctly, had a fairly new translation.

I think with a book this size finding a translation that you are comfortable with is important.

 

I enjoyed this book and am not sure why it has such a fearsome reputation. Is it just the size? The only part of the book that I didn't enjoy was when Pierre was exploring/explaining (I can't remember which) Freemasonry - which one of Tolstoy's pet subjects.

 

Definitely to be re-read one day.

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I was lucky enough to have a travelling scholarship in France when I was 18 and War and Peace accompanied me on trains and beaches. As tagesmann says, it's not fearsome at all. I cared about the characters and got immersed in the great set pieces.

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As with so many other things, "War and Peace" is on Mount TBR.

 

I read and enjoyed "Anna Karenina" earlier in the year. However, the introduction to the copy I had of the latter suggested the two novels were quite different to each other. If there is anyone out there who has read both, would they say that this was true?

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I read Anna Karenina last summer and just recently finished reading War and Peace. I do agree that they are different, but I thoroughly enjoyed them both. Anna Karenina was my favorite of the two. I enjoyed Tolstoy's work so I read War and Peace contrary to the fact that I knew I would enjoy the peace more than the war. On the subject of Russia works, has anyone read any Gogol?

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Thanks, nallison, and welcome to BGO. Why not tell us more about yourself on the "Please Introduce Yourself" thread?

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I have to admit that I gave up on Anna Karenina. I wasn't enjoying it and didn't empathise with the characters, so...

 

I read War and Peace quite a long time ago and tried Anna Karenina about four years ago.

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I started this a while ago, but it's still sitting on my shelf at home. I'm over 200 pages in, but I just don't have the time at the moment and it's a lot of weight to carry on trains etc. I liked what I read of it and I'm looking forward to getting stuck into it over Christmas.

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The only part of the book that I didn't enjoy was when Pierre was exploring/explaining (I can't remember which) Freemasonry - which one of Tolstoy's pet subjects.

 

I quite agree with you, I loved this book and yearned desperately to have the charm and wit of Natasha (I was 15). That's why I can't describe my reaction to the last chapter and Natasha's obession with nappies as 'not enjoying'; it was burning, blinding rage that Tolstoy could really believe that such a vibrant personality could become so boringly domesticated. I still am cross about it.

 

Incidentally I read War and Peace in a week while I was revising for my mock O'levels and contrary to all predictions passed every subject (except Latin but that would have taken a miracle).

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I am drawn to reading this, but also a bit daunted.

I'm similarly drawn to doing the Trans-Siberian Railway, and have a vague notion of doing it next summer. If I do, I might be very cliched and take this book with me.

I saw an article in, I think, yesterday's Guardian about the competing claims of the two versions - apparently Tolstoy added the diversions and musings in a second version, so there is a good case to be made for reading the "slimmed down" version which omits these.

Don't know which I'd take - the trip has three straight days on the train, crossing Siberia!

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I'm similarly drawn to doing the Trans-Siberian Railway, and have a vague notion of doing it next summer.

I've always been taken by the idea of that - I love seeing countries from trains. I'd be interested to hear about it if you go!

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I'm similarly drawn to doing the Trans-Siberian Railway, and have a vague notion of doing it next summer. If I do, I might be very cliched and take this book with me.

 

I've had that notion for the last 15 years or so! A friend and I have said we'll do it together but keep finding reasons to postpone it - poverty, relationships etc. We were both especially bitter when a mutual friend made the trip last summer and didn't even ask either of us if we wanted to join him.

 

I think people take "War and Peace" largely because it's long. However, I think the early part of the journey from Moscow actually passes through countryside where the rural sections of "Anna Karenina" are set. If that's true, then actually the latter is the more appropriate book. Either that, or one of my current reads, James Meek's "The People's Act of Love". That you actually stand a chance of finishing!

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I've always been taken by the idea of that
I've had that notion for the last 15 years or so!

 

That would make an interesting BGO meet-up! All aboard for the Trans-Siberian Railway! I can just imagine all the other folk on the train saying (in Russian, of course), "Steer clear of those wierdos in carriage 4 - all they do is talk about books."

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I love War and Peace, my copy is translated by Rosemary Edmonds. Funnily enough I seem to race through the bigger novels like War and peace, Gone with the wind, Anna Karenina, Harry Potter etc but can struggle through shorter books, I recently read Never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro and though I finally quite liked it, it took days to read, War and Peace only took 3 days, I found it hard to put down.

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Well, after a re-start I have actually managed to finish this book. It's the only book I managed o read over the last eight weeks, so I'm a bit annoyed it took me so long!

 

I did like it very much, but it is flawed. Part two of the epilogue went straight over my head and I think a lot of that stuff could have been left out without taking away from the book. Also, with the number of characters, some of them got forgotten about. I would have liked to know what happened to some of them.

 

I also think Tolstoy was a little naive about women, particularly in his portrayal of Natasha, but that could have been the wording: it seemed a little old-fashioned or something. I did really like Natasha, though, particularly her personification of Russia.

 

I think this is more a history with a few fictional characters thrown in to make it more personal, but it's still extremely enjoyable and the scope is incredible.

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Tolstoy had the most amazing knack of drawing his readers into the story in a way that makes you feel that you really are part of it, if only as an observer. I read War and Peace many years ago and it had a lasting impact on me. I felt the same about Anna Karenina when I read it more recently but it is the broad canvas of War and Peace that makes it the more memorable of the two.

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Is it just the dialogue being so stiff and literary or is it the flood of charaxcters with varying names, patronyms etc that make War and Peace such hard going? I know I've begun it several times and let it fall from my grasp. Anna K I found more palatable. Pasternak's Zhivago, too, I found easy to discard. I thought I was being lectured once too often. Of course it has marvellous scenes, and a great sense of space, but I missed pace and irony.

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Is it just the dialogue being so stiff and literary or is it the flood of charaxcters with varying names, patronyms etc that make War and Peace such hard going? I know I've begun it several times and let it fall from my grasp. Anna K I found more palatable. Pasternak's Zhivago, too, I found easy to discard. I thought I was being lectured once too often. Of course it has marvellous scenes, and a great sense of space, but I missed pace and irony.

I agree with you, Nonsuch, about being lectured too often in War and Peace. I wonder if this was because Tolstoy saw his work as a historical account (apparently he was at odds with his publisher in the early stages because he didn't want it to be called a historical novel) and populated it with many of his characters in order to voice his own views on issues such as determinism and freewill among others. I think that Pasternak also had a tendency towards this in Zhivago. Anna Karenina, on the other hand, struck me as a much more straightforward novel - simply a cautionary tale of adultery - and, therefore, more readable. Sorry to rant but it would be interesting to hear what others think.

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I suggest you people try and read Tolstoy in the original, impossible though it may seem. I think this is the only way to hear all that this author had to say. I am currently reading Anna Karenin in American translation and, as a native speaker of Russian, I'm both amused and abused by what the translator made of the novel. For instance, the language of an illiterate Russian mujik is rendered as if he were an English butler dressed in white livery and black haughtiness. While making the narrative easier for English speakers, blunders like that make the novel pretty different from what it initially was, but I assume this holds true for practically everything touched by a translator...

 

Alexei,

 

I agree with your comments about translations but just as there are good and bad novels I suppose that there are also good and bad translations and without translators a large part of the world's literature would be inaccessible to a great many people.

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Hi everyone,

 

Forgive me if this sounds like a shameless promotion for my blog, but I was having a debate with my wife over War and Peace yesterday. I was thinking that the reason most people feel daunted by it is because it's so huge, and that if they developed a "read your War and Peace in one year" plan, that more people would read the book. (After all, One Year Bibles are big business in Christian circles.)

 

She disagreed, and thought that barely anyone would be interested . . . so I thought I'd find out people's thoughts. You can read more about the One Year War and Peace challenge at my blog.

 

Glad to find other people who have read it, anyway. My personal opinion is that it's the greatest novel . . . I was going to say "ever written" . . . but lost my nerve and will simply say . . . that I've ever read.

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Spoilers.

 

I just finished War and Peace and I have to say that I thought it was amazing. I even cried in a couple of places. To begin with I found the military sections hard going but I soon warmed to them and felt like I was in the thick of the battle. I also actually liked the freemason bits, maybe it's because Pierre became one of my favourite characters.

I literally couldn't put the book down, midway as Natasha was in Moscow making her big mistake. I had to read that whole section in one sitting.

 

What an epic. I thought there were hints of Vanity Fare about it but much more evokative battle scenes. I have never read a book that follows the life of people for so many years. I was particularly touched at the end of the good bit of the epilogue where Andrey's son is beginning to want to be a hero, it seems that the cycle just goes on and nobody has really learnt the horrors of the battles.

 

Part two of the epilogue drove me nuts. Making the same points over and over. A few places in the book he uses similar imagery to say the same things. At the end of a long book you don't really want 70 pages of philosophy.

 

I liked the authorial voice I loved how it drew events together and gave them a meaning. You don't have to agree with it but it's good to have a guide. I thought his generalisations about nationalities were quite amusing.

 

One thing that struck me was his way of describing people's movements as they relate to their feelings etc. So much of our communication is non verbal and I think he picks up on this extremely well.

 

A very good book. I really enjoyed it. Simon Schama endorses my version (penguin red read) as a book you don't just read, you live. I completely agree with him. I feel like I really know the characters and places now.

 

......I wish poor Sonia could have found some love. She was pretty hard done by. I guess it was more realistic but still......

 

As for length...it took me 6 months to read the first half between study (I read 12 other books while reading that) but only one week to read the second half. It would be easily read in two weeks and actually when you get into it it flies by. I don't think I would be daunted by a books length or reputation again.

 

If it's sat on the shelf I reccomend picking it up!

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I've tried War and Peace 2 or 3 times over the years but never got hooked. I'm not sure whether it's the names and the patronyms and nicknames or the crowded scenes where, as at a wild party, you just give up trying to communicate sensibly with anyone. Tolstoy certainly has a leisurely pace, which won't recommend him much to a modern reader. Other long books, like Proust's A La Recherche or Moby Dick I can cope with, though with either of which I would tend to agree with Johnson's comment on Paradise Lost that 'no one ever wished it longer.'

 

These Russians certainly go in for hefty tomes and seem to enjoy themselves in, like, 'philosophising' - a bad fault in a novelist - Pasternak is a case in point here, and his 'dialogue' is even less convincing than Tolstoy's. You know what's coming - another lecture followed by a riposte - so prepare to skip. Nobody talks like that; if they did they'd get a tomato in their face.

 

Although I enjoyed T's Anna Karenina, I think the much quoted first sentence is a load of twaddle and a terribly bad opening.

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I've tried War and Peace 2 or 3 times over the years but never got hooked. I'm not sure whether it's the names and the patronyms and nicknames .

 

It took me a good 600 pages to be certain who was who.

:P

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