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War and Peace by Léon Tolstoï
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War and Peace (1868)

by Léon Tolstoï (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
16,722251106 (4.28)19 / 1714
  1. 110
    Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (chrisharpe)
  2. 70
    Life and Fate by Vassili Grossman (chrisharpe, longway)
  3. 30
    Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann (roby72)
  4. 20
    History by Elsa Morante (roby72)
  5. 10
    Los mas bellos cuentos rusos. Prologo con resena critica de la obra, vida y obra del autor, y marco historico. (Spanish Edition) by Alexander Pushkin (carajava)
    carajava: Es muy recomendable despues o, en todo caso antes de leer guerra y paz, puesto que, mejorarà tu forma de ver el mundo donde viviàn los rusos, comprenderlo y razonar sus precarias situaciònes.
  6. 10
    La Lumière des justes by Henri Troyat (Eustrabirbeonne)
    Eustrabirbeonne: Well, Henri Troyat is no Tolstoy of course, and he did not pretend he was : he described himself as a mere "storyteller". Yet some of his fiction is real good, and this "cycle" is certainly his best. And of course, Russian-born Lev Aslanovich Tarasov had in mind the never-written sequel to "War and Peace" about the Decembrist uprising, which Tolstoy initiates in the final chapters of "War and Peace" with his hints at Pierre's active participation in a "society". Would Natasha, already a mother of four in 1820, have left her children behind to follow Pierre in Siberia, as other convicts' wives did?… (more)
  7. 10
    The Years by Virginia Woolf (roby72)
  8. 11
    Traveller of the Century by Andrés Neuman (rrmmff2000)
  9. 13
    Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky (chrisharpe)
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Topics messagesLast message 
History at 30,000 feet: The Big Picture : WWII, from the inside 10 unread / 10cbellia, February 2012
75 Books Challenge for 2011 : War and Peace Group Read 2011 - Vol 3, Part III 10 unread / 10Rebeki, July 2011
75 Books Challenge for 2011 : War and Peace Group Read 2011 - Vol 3, Part II 10 unread / 10Rebeki, July 2011
75 Books Challenge for 2011 : War and Peace Group Read 2011 - Vol 2, Part V 12 unread / 12Rebeki, July 2011
75 Books Challenge for 2011 : War and Peace Group Read 2011 - Vol 2, Part IV 7 unread / 7Rebeki, July 2011
75 Books Challenge for 2011 : War and Peace Group Read 2011 - Epilogue II 9 unread / 9cushlareads, June 2011
75 Books Challenge for 2011 : War and Peace Group Read 2011 - Vol 1, Part 3 spoiler thread 13 unread / 13Rebeki, June 2011
75 Books Challenge for 2011 : War and Peace Group Read 2011 - Epilogue I 8 unread / 8JanetinLondon, June 2011
75 Books Challenge for 2011 : War and Peace Group Read 2011 - Vol 4, Part IV 7 unread / 7JanetinLondon, June 2011
Book talk : War And Peace 8 unread / 8Sandydog1, May 2011
75 Books Challenge for 2011 : War and Peace Group Read 2011 - Vol 1, Part 2 spoiler thread 13 unread / 13Deern, May 2011
75 Books Challenge for 2011 : War and Peace Group Read 2011 - "Wrap Up" (spoiler) Thread 6 unread / 6JanetinLondon, May 2011
75 Books Challenge for 2011 : War and Peace Group Read 2011 - Vol 4, Part III 3 unread / 3JanetinLondon, May 2011
75 Books Challenge for 2011 : War and Peace Group Read 2011 - Vol 4, Part II 6 unread / 6JanetinLondon, May 2011
75 Books Challenge for 2011 : War and Peace Group Read 2011 - Vol 1, Part 1 spoiler thread 16 unread / 16JanetinLondon, May 2011
75 Books Challenge for 2011 : War and Peace Group Read 2011 - Vol 4, Part I 7 unread / 7JanetinLondon, May 2011
75 Books Challenge for 2011 : War and Peace Group Read 2011 - Intro thread (no spoilers) 41 unread / 41Deern, May 2011
75 Books Challenge for 2011 : War and Peace Group Read 2011 - Vol 3, Part I 8 unread / 8cushlareads, May 2011
75 Books Challenge for 2011 : War and Peace Group Read 2011 - Vol 2, Part III 5 unread / 5Deern, March 2011
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» See also 1714 mentions

English (236)  Spanish (6)  Dutch (5)  French (2)  Hebrew (2)  German (1)  All languages (252)
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Writing an original, cogent and halfway-intelligent review of War and Peace in English is as daunting a task as reading Tolstoy’s opus magnum to begin with. Why, then, would I risk making a mockery of myself by awarding it only three stars? I’ll explain, and thereby attempt to justify this near condemnation of a world-renowned work — a work, by the way, which Tolstoy himself says (in the Appendix) is not a novel, but which critics and the reading public in general call just that. And so, rather than skirt controversy on this minor point, I will, too.

Although I’d hesitate to call Tolstoy a stylist, there are (in over 1,200 pages of relatively small print) a number of instances in which he goes out on a literary limb. One such is on p. 524:

“Nikolai set out after the first troika; behind him the rest came rattling and screeching. At first they went at a slow trot along the narrow road. As they drove past the garden, shadows from the bare trees often lay across the road and obscured the bright light of the moon, but as soon as they drove beyond the fence, a plain of snow, sparkling like diamonds, with a dove-blue sheen, bathed in moonlight and motionless, opened out on all sides. Once, twice the front sleigh jolted over a bump; the next sleigh jolted in the same way, then the next, and, boldly breaking the frost-bound stillness, the sleighs strung out one after the other.”

While I realize that being in the least bit critical of Leo Tolstoy’s prose borders on iconoclasm, I nevertheless have to pose the question: am I the only reader in Christendom who looks at this and wonders about certain punctuation, not to mention about the possibility of a run-on sentence or two in this otherwise lyrical passage — so atypical of Tolstoy both in War and Peace and in Anna Karenina (the only other work of his I’ve read and reviewed both here and at Amazon)?

I give full credit, by the way, for an accurate translation (and transcription) of this work to Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. I believe that they — much to their credit — would not have corrected any of Tolstoy’s prose. And so, I can only conclude that Tolstoy himself is to blame for any weakness or sloppiness in his work. When I was a student of Russian language and literature at Columbia a few decades ago, Constance Garnett was considered the reigning queen in matters of English-language translations of the Russian classics. To me at the time, her work frequently read like that of a testosterone-spiked teenager out for a drunken spin on a Friday night. Not so with Pevear and Volokhonsky, who are studied and meticulous in their translation both of this work and of others I’ve read in the past.

Tolstoy is a first-rate story-teller, make no mistake about it. And he paints a rather deplorable picture of both the Russian aristocracy of the time and of the singularly solipsistic, narcissistic and megalomaniac Napoleón Bonaparte in particular. But he’s simply sloppy in his prose, a fair portion of which is just not the handiwork of a brilliant and careful writer (e.g., Gustave Flaubert).

While I don’t know that his generalized observations about the character and comportment of several European nationalities is a mark of genius, I did find his descriptions of Germans, Frenchmen, Englishmen, Italians and Russians (on p. 639) to be amusing, entertaining and — let’s be frank — damned accurate!

All of the above notwithstanding, I’ll give you that there are several passages in the novel (unfortunately, too lengthy to cite here in their entirety, but I’ll quote the first and last sentences of each) that are particularly well-crafted and that I’d describe as quintessentially Tolstoy. The first begins at the bottom of p. 605 and concludes at the bottom of p. 606.

“Kings are the slaves of history … Their every action, which to them seems willed by themselves, in the historical sense is not willed, but happens in connection with the whole course of history and has been destined from before all ages.”

A second comprises the entirety of Volume III, Part 2, Chapter 1 (pp. 682 – 682).

“Napoleon started the war with Russia because he could not help going to Dresden, could not help getting befuddled with honors, could not help putting on a Polish uniform, yielding to the heartening impression of a June morning, could not refrain from outbursts of anger in the presence of Kurakin and then of Balashov…Napoleon goes further, we retreat, and the very thing is achieved that was to defeat Napoleon.”

A third (Vol. III, Part 2, XXVII) begins on p. 783 and ends on p. 785: “Many historians say that the battle of Borodino…fulfilled his [Napoleon’s] role of seeming to command.”

A fourth (Vol. III, Part 3, I) begins on p. 821 and finishes up on p. 823: “For human reason, absolute continuity…their reflections on the occasion of those deeds.”

And then we have the Epilogue to War and Peace in which Tolstoy waxes quite philosophical (in Part 1, I-IV and the entire Part 2, which offers a lengthy monograph on freedom versus necessity) when he’s not sounding downright balzacien (Part 1, V-XVI).

Prior to a most admirable Epilogue, however, we get the laconically poetic passage Pevear cites in his Introduction: “…drops dripped…whistled the saber, and again the horses scuffled and neighed…” (p. 1,055). Having once wrestled with my own metrical translation of Sergei Yesenin’s poem, “A Letter to My Mother” for inclusion in my novel, Trompe-l’oeil, I can certainly appreciate not only Tolstoy’s alliterative skill, but also Pevear’s equally alliterative and artful translation.

But what of Tolstoy’s — overwrought, in my opinion — metaphor on pp. 874-875, in which he compares the desertion of Moscow (just before the French invasion) with an abandoned beehive? Where was his writer’s nose at that point?

These examples show not only the genius of the work, and of the man, but also its — and his — shortcomings. I just don’t believe he was as good a writer (or at least an editor) as he was a thinker. After all, every writer has the opportunity to edit and polish his own work, and no one’s pointing a gun at him to get on with the process.

And so, given what we know about Tolstoy’s later years, I think the Latin citation (in footnote #9, on p. 1,237) is most appropriate — and herewith, I’ll end my review except for one little piece of advice to you, a potential reader of War and Peace:

“Quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat.” *

And the advice? Do not try to read this book on the subway! One or the other will find you dead on the tracks.

RRB
01/14/14)
Brooklyn, NY
[b:Trompe-l'oeil|10844205|Trompe-l'oeil|Russell Bittner|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327873786s/10844205.jpg|15758639]

* “Those whom God wants to destroy, he first drives mad.” ( )
  RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
When people thing of big books often War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy is mentioned. This Russian classic depicts the French invasion of Russia in 1812. True to Tolstoy form, War and Peace also looks at classes and the impact of the Napoleonic invasion on the Tsarist society. While this book can be considered an epic historical war novel, for me this was a work of philosophical ideas. This is one of the hardest books to review, not because I have nothing to say but rather there is so much to cover and I have no idea where to start.

Just to put things into perspective, I started this book in October and have been slowly chipping away at it for four months. It is a hard battle and you really need to take your time with a book like this because Tolstoy has a lot to say. This is the kind of book that feels like you‘ve climbed a mountain when you finally finish and you can just feel your pretentious levels rising. For those interested, I read the Oxford World’s Classics edition which has the translations by Aylmer and Louise Maude. Many people debate on which translation is the best but I thought going with an Oxford World’s Classics would be a safe bet; I love this publisher and know I’m always getting a decent copy of the book.

Right off the bat you are flung into this world and you meet so many people. Tolstoy has an amazing ability to give the reader a sense of a person with a few lines, so even the minor characters in this book get some sort of personality. There are hundreds (over 500) characters within War and Peace and I often found it difficult to keep up with them all but thanks to Leo Tolstoy’s writing ability I could relax a little because even if I forgot about a character, when they reappear further in the book I still had a sense of who they are. This is possible due to the way this book was originally written and I will talk more on that later.

Most of the major characters within War and Peace are members of the aristocracy and it is interesting to see them all fighting for a higher position in society, government or the military. People like Boris rise in society while others like the Rostov fall, Dolokhov gets demoted while Pierre plots an assassination. Not only do we have the Napoleonic war happening within these pages, a battle for social standing rages through this novel. It is all about power but paradoxically the people with the most power within this book are the ones that seem to give up control.

If you don’t have the knowledge of Russian or Napoleonic history, this novel accommodates the reader. I found myself at times looking up information about the history just to satisfy my curiosity but as the book progressed, my research subsided. It is in Leo Tolstoy’s style to give you as much information as possible, this does make the book longer but for me I think it was a huge bonus. But you must realise this is a work of fiction and most of the people are fictional. Tolstoy was telling a story of the invasion and the harsh nature of war. You can even look at the second epilogue and read more of the authors thoughts on the subject and the philosophical ideas held within this book.

War and Peace was originally serialised in the literary magazine The Russian Messenger between 1865 and 1867. This magazine plays host to many of Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novels. This means that originally people read War and Peace over the course of three years. This means at times the novel may feel repetitive and covering plot points done before but this is just a result of the original format. It comes in handy with characters as they are reintroduced and because I took my time reading this classic, it became a vital part.

There is so much going on within War and Peace and it took me a long time trying to work out what I wanted to say and what to leave out. This is the kind of book that needs to be revisited in the future, Tolstoy has a lot to say and I’m interested in exploring the themes. I loved this book; it is a roller-coaster of emotions and philosophical ideas. I’ve only scratched the surface of what is happening in this novel and then wrote a small amount of what I discovered. I can’t imagine ever being able to fully understand the brilliance of Tolstoy and War and Peace. For me, Fyodor Dostoyevsky is a better writer but Leo Tolstoy has a unique ability to capture the lives of everyone involved in one war.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2014/03/20/war-and-peace-by-leo-tolstoy/ ( )
3 vote knowledge_lost | Dec 4, 2014 |
This is an epic masterpiece that defies pithy summary. Before I decided that I had to read it, the size and reputation of the book were somewhat daunting - it is a tribute not just to Tolstoy but to Anthony Briggs that this translation is so eminently readable, and apart from some of the philosophical musings about the meaning and limitations of history, it never seemed like hard work to read.

The story is all-encompassing, covering the epic sweep of the history of the wars between Russia and Napoleon but also a moving family story of the main protagonists and colourful descriptions of Russian life.

I can't do justice to it, but I would recommend it to all intelligent readers with an interest in Russia and its history. ( )
  bodachliath | Nov 4, 2014 |
now I know why this is a classic. War scenes. Peace scenes alternate in this history book. I learned more about history than in school. Easier to read than expected. Not sure if the two epilogs were necessary, but the book itself is just gigantic and awesome. ( )
  kakadoo202 | Nov 2, 2014 |
Well, seven months later -- I finished it! Not exactly an easy read. Not even a very enjoyable read -- give me Anna Karenina anytime. But it's just one of those books that any student of literature NEEDS to read, so I did. The juxtaposition of the horrors of war and the earlier scenes of gaiety and mindless flirtations (Natasha) work well, but it's just too long. I could care less about the chesslike moves of Napoleon and his Russian counterparts -- those interludes bogged down the narrative far too much. I wanted to know what would become of the characters -- that is what kept me reading. The characterizations were stunning, and the effect of war on the various personalities was believable and compelling. ( )
  AliceAnna | Oct 23, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 236 (next | show all)
[Note: This review refers mainly to the Pevear-Volokhonsky translation in comparison to other translations.]

The Russian language is the real hero of Tolstoy’s masterpiece; it is his voice of truth. The English-speaking world is indebted to these two magnificent translators, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, for revealing more of its hidden riches than any who have tried to translate the book before.
 

» Add other authors (136 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tolstoï, LéonAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Edmonds, RosemaryTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Adler, MortimerEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Alcántara, Francisco JoséTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Andresco, IreneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Andresco, LauraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bahar, NurettinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bayley, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Boutelje, A. E.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Briggs, AnthonyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cadei, ErmeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Conrad-Lütt, BarbaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dahl, HjalmarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dunnigan, AnnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eberle, TheodorIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eichenberg, FritzIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Faber zu Faur, Christian Wilhelm vonIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fadiman, CliftonIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Figes, OrlandoIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foote, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Freedman, BarnettIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fuller, EdmondEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Garnett, ConstanceTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gibian, GeorgeEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gifford, HenryEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grusemann, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hilbert, ErnestIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hockenberry, JohnAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hollo, J. A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hutchins, Robert M.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kúper, LydiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kropotkin, AlexandraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Laín Entralgo, JoséTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Malcovati, FaustoIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maude, AylmerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maude, Louise ShanksTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maugham, W. SomersetEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mongault, HenriTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pacini, GianlorenzoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Papma, DieuwkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pascal, PierreIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pevear, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Röhl, HermannTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rho, AnitaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sýkora, VilémTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sibaldi, IgorTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sibley, DonIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thomassen, EjnarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Topolski, FelixIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Verestchagin, VassilyIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Volokhonsky, LarissaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vries, H.R. deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vries, René deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whitman, J. FranklinIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Well, Prince, Genoa and Lucca are now no more than private estates of the Bonaparte family."
Well, Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the Buonapartes. (Maude/Maude)
Quotations
War is not a polite recreation but the vilest thing in life, and we ought to understand that and not play at war.
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This is the complete work "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy. Do not combine with single volumes of the work, or with abridgments of the work.
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War and Peace is universally acclaimed as one of the supreme classics of world literature. The subject of the novel is the gigantic canvas of all life - as revealed against the monumental background of Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812.It is a teeming panorama of tsarist aristocrats and humble peasants, heroic battles, vainglorious soldiers, cowards, sages and fools.

War and Peace is not only the awesome spectacle of two worlds - France and Russia - caught in a life-and-death struggle, but it also captures with brilliance and for all time the moving forces of history which change and illuminate men's lives.

This special modern abridgment has been prepared by Ernest J Simmons, former Chairman of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literature, Columbia University, and one of the leading world critics of Russian literature. 
He has also written the introduction.

The authorized translation by Louise and Alymer Maude
Abridged, Edited and with an Introduction By Earnest J Simmons
Published by Washington Square, 1963
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307266931, Hardcover)

From Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, the best-selling, award-winning translators of Anna Karenina and The Brothers Karamazov, comes a brilliant, engaging, and eminently readable translation of Leo Tolstoy’s master epic.

War and Peace centers broadly on Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812 and follows three of the best-known characters in literature: Pierre Bezukhov, the illegitimate son of a count who is fighting for his inheritance and yearning for spiritual fulfillment; Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, who leaves behind his family to fight in the war against Napoleon; and Natasha Rostov, the beautiful young daughter of a nobleman, who intrigues both men. As Napoleon’s army invades, Tolstoy vividly follows characters from diverse backgrounds—peasants and nobility, civilians and soldiers—as they struggle with the problems unique to their era, their history, and their culture. And as the novel progresses, these characters transcend their specificity, becoming some of the most moving—and human—figures in world literature.

Pevear and Volokhonsky have brought us this classic novel in a translation remarkable for its fidelity to Tolstoy’s style and cadence and for its energetic, accessible prose. With stunning grace and precision, this new version of War and Peace is set to become the definitive English edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:24:30 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

From Pevear and Volokhonsky, the bestselling, award-winning translators of "Anna Karenina" and "The Brothers Karamazov," comes a brilliant, engaging, and eminently readable translation of Tolstoy's master epic.

» see all 34 descriptions

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