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War and Peace by Léon Tolstoï

War and Peace (1868)

by Léon Tolstoï (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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This one I also "read" long ago. Actually it was read to me by Alexander Scourby on long-playing records in 1969 because I was able to get "books for the blind" at the time. I still hear the prose in his deep, resonant voice. I was a big fan of Russian literature at the time, and this has never ceased. I was especially glad to counteract the Dostoyevskian Christianity I had been taught with Tolstoy's idea that the kingdom of God is within you.
  conniekronlokken | Jan 6, 2015 |
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.

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 |
I was surprised once I finally read this book. It was much more readable then I expected, and much more of a novel - romantic, even - then I expected. The philosophizing at the end was heavy-handed and detracted from the whole. ( )
  kcshankd | Oct 23, 2014 |
Worldbuilding leaves something to be desired, thank goodness for footnotes,endnotes, and wikipedia. But good book - loved it. ( )
  Rowena_ | Oct 14, 2014 |
This was, indeed, an epic read, but as there always has been more to Tolstoy, this book is no different. In it you find bits of history you would have never known otherwise, full-on societal differences and perceptions, and a statement, whether or not you consider it a little subtle, on government and society as a whole. If you know anything about the governments of the world, you see that this statement applies today just as it did then, nevermind the excesses of the wealthy. One cannot just "read" War and Peace. One who loves literature lives it, becomes it, and carries it with them the rest of their lives. Those who are afraid of it because it's such a large tome are just not willing to read anything that might impact their lives. ( )
  mreed61 | Aug 10, 2014 |
"Sõda ja rahu" on mu meelest nagu "Tõde ja õigus". Ilmselt pole paljud kumbagi raamatut lugenud, aga no kes ei tunneks Nataša Rostovat, Pierre Bezuhhovit, Vargamäe Andrest või Oru Pearu.
Ma olen üsna kindel, et ma seda raamatud varem lugenud polnud, aga ju olen ma näinud filmi? Ja loomulikult olen ma käinud klassiekskursioonil Barclay de Tolly mälestusmärgi juures. Igaljuhul, nagu kohtumine vanade tuttavatega.

Sõda ja Rahu oleks tegelikult ideaalne e-raamat. Päris naljakas oli üle pika aja lugeda paberilt. Seda lugedes oleks kohe hädasti vaja, et saaksid online tõlkida prantsuskeelsed osad ( no miks neid nii palju peab olema!), esimese osa juures võiks olla "kes on kes?" ja hiljem Venemaa kaart ja wikipedia tegelaste taustade uurimiseks samuti.

Loe edasi
http://indigoaalane.blogspot.com/2013/04/ltolstoi-soda-ja-rahu.html ( )
  Indigoaalane | Jul 18, 2014 |
Only in our conceited age of the popularization of knowledge – thanks to that most powerful engine of ignorance, the diffusion of printed matter – has the question of freedom of will been put on a level on which the question itself cannot exist.

Tolstoy is a much better storyteller than a thinker; in other words, no matter how hard he wants to be Borges, he's much better off gamboling in the bucolic glories of his beloved Russia. Part Two of this book's Epilogue cemented that in stone, forty pages of Tolstoy destroying any denunciation he had made of the horrors of war with redundant, solipsistic, and inconclusive meanderings on freewill and power. Had he stuck with a simple 'Well we just don't know so how about we keep thinking and not killing each other in those horrible massacres known as war that we shouldn't be lauding as much as we do' and ended it there, it would have been a good, sensible end. Instead, he went on. And on. And on. I've heard this paradoxical thinking is part of his appeal and his later works tell a different story but I just finished 1440 pages of the reputably nineteenth longest work in the history of novels and I am NOT going to do the 'Oh but you read the wrong one now this work is the one that is the true best of the author...' dance. Right now, enough is enough.

I recently ran across a bundle of reviews condemning Hugo for overt egotism in his [Les Misérables], and while I see the truth in that, I'll take boundless hope for empathetic humanity over thought experiments culminating in either religion or endless gnawing of ones' leg in efforts to escape any day. All authors are completely full of themselves to some degree of thinking their compositions are worthy of an audience, and while I promised to not let this review commit itself to Hugo vs. Tolstoy time, I like writers that offer a backdoor, who give an opinion/story/whatnot without spending endless paragraphs quibbling over its immutability and/or not. You like what you think? Stay considerate, consistent, and somewhere along the line concise, and I'll probably like it too.

"He could not disavow his deeds, lauded as they were by half the world, and so he was obliged to repudiate truth and beauty and all humanity."

That line sums up everything I find great in Tolstoy, that utter rout of Napoleon and putting in his place a conjuration of ineffable worth that is in no way encompassed by military might. Unfortunately, Tolstoy's very much a Hemingway, and I can only hope some of that humanity he names rubbed off on him in the eight years between the publications of W&P and [Anna Karenina], for every time a woman shows up he has no time for anything but lazy characterization, patronizing hypocrisy, and insipid similes such as how the effort to achieve women's rights is like the effort to cook the perfect meal and has no consideration for the holy sacred "family" that constitutes the only reason for matrimony. The irony is that, like many men and women of both that time and this one, he doesn't see that the patriarchy he is so horrified by, leastwise in massacres committed in the name of king and nationalism, is birthed in every situation where a woman is expected to take on all of empathy and a man is refused the slightest share. This is a given I usually don't mention due to its ridiculous ubiquity, but seeing how much time Tolstoy spent trying and failing to write women, it deserves explicit mention.

In light of that, if I do the usual thing and focus on the thoughts of male characters while keeping only a cursory eye on those of women, there's some good stuff to be found. Proust does the rich people screwing each other over in petty politics and gainful one-ups better, but Proust never went to war. Between the psychological discourse of varying levels of insight and the constant relations of history to physical laws that range from intriguing to utterly laughable, we have breathtaking sketches of natural landscape and its humans, a sleigh ride in particular being one of my favorite scenes in literature of all time. Sentiment abounds, but was made bearable by the few moments when real value was found in empathy and the bonds of humanity. I would've been happier had I forgone the epilogue, but I also wouldn't have the right to evaluate it, and of all of Tolstoy's attempts to pin down the nature of power, I favor knowledge above all others.

In short, I thought I'd get more out of this than I did, but that moment six years ago when I had to return W&P unfinished to the library has now been vindicated. Also, that Russian film adaptation looks mighty appealing. ( )
1 vote Korrick | Jun 21, 2014 |
Original post at Book Rhapsody.


Snoopy reads this, one word a day

How can I possibly write something about this ginormous book that stands proud against the motley crew of my random books of mass markets, hardbounds, and trade paperbacks, and shying these on the sheer basis of breadth? A novel that spans four volumes, each volume divided into parts, and each part further divided into chapters, I struggled to finish this not without iron will and determination.

First, I was motivated by the reading support group spurred by local writer Jessica Zafra. I think we were about ten, periodically posting our inputs on the writer’s blog, including the writer herself, and I think I was the first to read my way across the finish line. I even think that only three of us really finished the book, this suspicion arising from the simple fact that the support-group-slash-challenge wasn’t capped off, unless we consider the article the writer wrote, an article that quoted the participants, as the waving checkered flag.

So you see, I really don’t know how to properly start this without the reader skipping to another random Internet article. But if you have reached this part, my effort is not in vain.

"Love? What is love?" he thought. "Love hinders death. Love is life. Everything, everything I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love. Everything is connected only by that. Love is God, and to die–-means that I, a part of love, return to the common and eternal source." These thoughts seemed comforting to him. But they were only thoughts. Something was lacking in them, there was something one-sidedly personal, cerebral–-there was no evidence. And there was the same uneasiness and vagueness. He fell asleep.

I lied. That’s not a random quotation. But the manner of picking it is quite random. I sifted my thoughts through my mental silkscreen. What is this about? Of course, it’s about war and peace, no? Sure, there’s a lot of war in here that would suffice for tremendous reference if you wish to lie about being a war veteran. There are characters in here that are real people, people who are forever a part of the world’s history. Like Napoleon. And who else?

I don’t remember. Rather, I don’t know, because after reading this, I suspect that Napoleon is just a product of Tolstoy’s pen. But let’s not dwell on that; let’s return to that quote, a dust mote of a narrative from this book that could break wrists. Okay, I picked a love quote because the major characters, the major fictional characters, are caught in a love triangle of sorts, but not that type where two men go after the same woman. Our characters Pierre Bezukhov, Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, and Natasha Rostov are better than that.

There are harder Russian names than that. It would be great if you also know French, because there’s a lot of French going on here. I think some editions have the all the French dialogues translated, but my edition, the Pevear-Volokhonsky translation, reputed to be the most loyal, left all the French untouched. There are footnotes, don’t worry. But given that I set out to read every single line in every volume, I still read the French lines. And whatever historical footnotes that I came across.

I don’t wish to go through the plot because really; all you need to know is that this is about Napoleon’s invasion of Russia with a lot of side twists and commentaries. I said commentaries because the author usually forgets that he is writing fiction and proceeds to write essays. Or it could be the other way around.

It is hard to convince someone to read this book, what with the popularity of classics, humongous classics at that, waning. But really, this is one good read. You don’t have to be a high-strung reader to understand it. Never mind the French, or go get another edition if you are Frenchophobic. The scenes are well-propped against exact descriptions. If you’re reading a part where a soiree is going on, you feel like a waiter eavesdropping on the conversations of the Russian high society.

The characters are well-developed and dynamic. I particularly like the polarity of Pierre and Prince Andrei, men who are supposed to bash in each other’s teeth but are the best of friends despite their vast differences. If you ask me, I prefer the dashing Prince Andrei, not only because he is dashing, but I like his thoughts and philosophies. Not to say that Pierre is uninteresting. It’s just my preference.

The plot is, yes, convoluted, but it can be tolerated. There’s just a lot going on. There are a lot of characters that could make up for a television series. That’s to be expected because it screams at over a thousand pages, but it doesn’t feel crammed. There’s comedy, drama, romance, and action, so it’s safe to say that readers of varying genres can have something to look forward to.

And yes, you can have the ultimate bragging rights of having set a reading milestone after flipping the last page.

But really, not everything is as good as I am trying to say. As much as I want to encourage everyone, I have to air this out. Tolstoy, in this novel, has a tendency to repeat himself over and over again. This is particularly evident in the essayish parts. He would wind up with a longish introduction, say about war and history, bring up a thesis, present an antithesis, conclude with a synthesis, and repeat all over on the same subject.

There are times that I wanted to scream at the book. Fine, I get it, can we please move on? Something like that. It can get annoying, but it could be exactly this why finishing this book gives you a sense of achievement. It even made me feel a little smarter. Of course, bus passengers would be intimidated if you whip out this book out of your backpack, which I did, but really, you will understand a thing or two about war and history, like the role of each other in each other.

Perhaps this should have been entitled War and History instead. ( )
1 vote angusmiranda | Jun 10, 2014 |
I enjoyed this book. It's not as good as Anna Karenina, but it's still worth the read. I'll admit that I was bored by the war part. The development of the characters is amazing but the lengthy interludes of the descriptions of the Napoleonic battles ruined a bit of that for me. Those parts are probably very interesting for someone who has an interest in the politics and fighting of the Napoleonic wars.. Worth the read. ( )
  steadfastreader | Mar 18, 2014 |
Wow, what a book. I'd call it an extended essay on free will, inevitability, the causes of events, the bias of historians in recording events, and humanity's innate inability to understand its own existence. The novel, or romance, or whatever else you want to call the fictional part of the book, illustrates Tolstoy's thinking and, despite making up roughly 80% of the book, is an aside to the thoughts captured in the second epilogue. The book isn't a novel in the accepted sense of the word. It is a philosophy, a theory, an allegory, a history, a fable. It is confusing and frustrating, but above all wonderfully written. The characters are beautifully observed. The essay parts might be repetitive, pedagogical, didactic, but they are an interesting insight into Tolstoy's thinking. In the fiction, too, Tolstoy isn't afraid of tough plot developments, things that are true to life, things that other novelists might shy away from in favour of happiness and happenstance. I'm very glad I've read it. ( )
1 vote missizicks | Mar 12, 2014 |
Couldn't do it, I couldn't actually read it. It was boring! ( )
  WendyBlott | Mar 11, 2014 |
I read this for the first time as part of a Basic Program class in the fall of 1990. While my reading was to be spread over ten weeks I soon found myself rushing ahead of that pace as the novel gripped my imagination. The book is an epic masquerading as a novel about the relationships among a small group of Russian families focusing on Pierre Bezukhov's individuation in particular. It tracks his journey of transformation from a strong thinking function orientation to a mature adult with a well-developed feeling function. Pierre put himself at risk by wandering around the Battle of Borodino watching and experiencing life close up to find out why men live, love, and go to war. He survived the front line, prison camp, and the falling temperatures of the French retreat march from Moscow and lived to return to Moscow.
Pierre's best friend, Prince Andrei, engaged to Natasha after the death of his wife in childbirth, became estranged from Natasha after her abortive elopement with Anatole. Andrei, mortally wounded on the battlefield, watched his friend Anatole die in an adjacent bunk during an amputation of his leg.

Later, during the evacuation of Moscow before the French army, Tolstoy put Natasha and Andrei in the same cortege of carts and they were reunited. Natasha nursed Andrew until he died in her arms. Now Nicholas, her brother, was free to marry Princess Mary (Andrew's sister), and Natasha, of course to marry her Pierre. In the book, both of the marriages were consummated and spawned children and happiness.
Tolstoy makes powerful points about war and He explains that historians construct neat scenarios to explain what happened, then what happened next, etc., but that these tight, rational schemes never existed in the realities of war and peace. Instead men placed themselves in dire situations and took individual actions (sometimes en masse) that are later seen to have been a result of some command or another.

The hero of the invasion and retreat from Moscow in Tolstoy's mind was General Kutuzov. The Russian commander-in-chief refused to allow his troops to fight in their exhausted state after Borodino, saying he preferred to lose Moscow rather than all his troops and Moscow. He withdrew his army beyond Moscow, leaving the Holy city of Russia wide open to the advancing French army. Once inside the Kremlin, Napoleon was abandoned by his army who busied themselves plundering Moscow, and he was trapped by the on-rush of the Russian winter. With supplies dwindling and no deputation from the Russians to sue for peace, Napoleon was forced to abandon a smoldering Moscow. The Russian winter's temperature plummeted to below zero and killed 90% of Napoleon's army during the disastrous trek back to France with Kutuzov's troops on their heels all the way to the border.
But in the end it is the families as exmplified by the Rostovs and Pierre that are at the heart of this epic novel. ( )
  jwhenderson | Feb 21, 2014 |
Learn about the Russian/Napoleonic wars and aristocratic Russian life while also being lectured about why the Great Men theory of history is bunk. It's no Dostoyevsky, but good albeit so time consuming ( )
  Achromatic | Feb 16, 2014 |
I was forced to read this (until page 10). But after a grudging start I couldn't stop. Great writing. Belongs in the classic category. ( )
  ZacharyFarina | Feb 6, 2014 |
The epic novel that follows a small cast of characters from 1805-1820 during Russia's wars with Napoleon.

Reviewing such a massive novel in any sort of succinct and coherent way is beyond my skills. Instead, I'll simply state that if you've ever considered picking up this tome, don't let its reputation and size scare you away. The novel itself is highly readable and the narrative is compelling enough to keep the pages turning at a decent rate. The language (at least in my translation) is clear and the chapters are short, which makes the story feel like it's moving along quickly. As is the case with any epic novel, I had story lines and characters I preferred to others but no one narrative arc ever takes centre stage for too long. Tolstoy deftly weaves together scenes from major battles between the Russian army and Napoleon's forces with events happening in Moscow and St. Petersburg, preventing battle description fatigue. He also brilliantly creates a cast of characters who vary widely but are all highly believable (for the men anyway).

Of course, with any massive tome that takes weeks to read, there are also things that drive you crazy. In my case, some of Tolstoy's depictions and descriptions of women made me shriek in frustration at their misogyny. Also, Tolstoy's occasional digressions on approaches to history began to wear thin - particularly his extended discussion of it in the second epilogue (which I didn't read all of) - although happily these only take up a few chapters in the final five books.

A book I'm very proud to knock off the reading bucket list but not one I'm likely to revisit. ( )
  MickyFine | Jan 30, 2014 |
Strange book--a big novel, but not a novel. I was there with the characters, in the salons, in Moscow and Petersburg, in the country, at war, at peace. But there's also the puzzle, "What is history," and the question, "Why do men go to war?", both woven into the story being told by the narrator, who steps in an out of the tale. Wonderful book. ( )
  wrk1 | Jan 15, 2014 |
A tale that you never want to end .This book is like a daily soap with many many characters and different parallel stories running at the same time but the main love story in between war is the main charm of this book.A must read! ( )
  Pankaj.Kumar | Dec 20, 2013 |
I've read this twice, the first time when I found it in a youth hostel years ago. People often refer to long, boring books as being like "War and Peace" - something only a few hardy people can reach the end of, like getting to the top of Everest. But there are plenty of fat, boring "airport" novels that are just as big, and are repetitive, tedious crap. War and Peace is interesting and entertaining, even if it does trail away at the end into essay-mode. Count Peter Bezukhov (or Pierre) might be the first recorded super-nerd in literature.
( )
  AMcBurnie | Nov 27, 2013 |
This story was a drag.

I tried I really did. In hopes of learning one of the great stories of history I decided to go with the Audio book. This is why it jumped out at me as it was the largest Audio Book in the library. 48 CDs. As far as an audio book production quality it was fairly well. The foreigner reading the English version was good, the end of each CD was properly announced, the beginning of the next likewise, and the track splits made sense. 48 CDs is a lot to manage, and I think about 3 or 4 MP3 CDs would have been better. The Library still had this item marked as NEW yet the box was already falling apart. That is a problem. Worst of all I couldn't renew it because the audio book was already reserved for someone else.

The story dragged on and on and on. After the first 6 discs nothing had really happened. Some guy died, someone else joined the army and a bunch of rich bastards talked about how great it is that French people kill other people, and how awesome it is to get drunk. After having to return the discs due to what was described above, I decided to watch the movie before I wrote this review. I got about half way through the 4 hour movie before I realized I still wasn't following it due to how much it dragged on and on about nothing.

Save yourself some time, unless you need to for a class, or you have a much stronger desire than I to read it just because its classic literature, don't. ( )
  fulner | Nov 18, 2013 |
Pevear & Volokhonsky translation; also read first few chapters of Edmonds.
[4.5. Especially if we ignore the Epilogue.]

Like a huge and complex orrery. The elegant movement, construction and synthesis was awe-inspiring. (Though, like other possible analogies - a classical symphony, or a dance in a Regency ball scene - there are other things I love more, whilst still being very impressed with what's there.) I was always interested in what was happening to the cast of characters, but didn't care strongly about any of them other than Marya. The elegance of the book - and perhaps some facet of the translation (P&V) - gave it a coldness. It was still frequently mesmerising though, especially in the second half, once I no longer felt the commitmentphobe's metaphorical suffocation and wish to thrash around to get free and run.

I've never been good with very big books. This is almost certainly the longest single volume I've read cover to cover since Norman Davies' Europe: A History not long after its publication in 1996. That I at least managed in one go; this was a game of two halves. Although it's only available in one volume; as a kid, despite there being a very nice 60s edition of The Lord of the Rings at home, I had to get the three separate volumes, convinced I'd never finish the thing otherwise. And I never would have bothered with this one, were it not for someone who'd always said they were even worse with big books than I was. I had lazily metonymmed a longish email of mine War and Peace (I've since written many longer reviews on here), and received a reply including a delightful, playful reflection on how it was and was not like W&P. If they could read it, so could I, I resolved instantly. (It not having occurred to me just yet that one could know the story from a film.) Reading War and Peace had been, to me, something people didn't really do these days... There are plenty on my GR friendslist who have, but before and away from GR, almost everyone I know who has is an older relative.

It's rather a twenty-first century beast in concept, this mélange of novel and narrative history and over-long all-out rant about historical causation. The first two work quite excellently. The third, well, there is too much of it. Readability was maintained as long as it was woven into the main book, but I join the legion of non-fans of Epilogue Part Two. The theories of causation, whilst an obvious leap forward from the Great Man theory that remained a staple of popular narrative history and schools long after W&P appeared, are clearly outdated because we now have ideas like systems theory, complexity, chaos, feedback etc to deal with the ideas that Tolstoy always manages to take a bit too far in the other direction from Great Man (or feels are contradictory - e.g the idea that a person can be a product of a society and also influence it). Though it's all a big puppet show by God in the end. Having done two university modules on historiography, I can see why this wasn't on the main reading lists... Though it would have been a good inclusion to encourage wider reading.

I've said an awful lot already in my notes below about the first half, and the status updates from the second. Some of the arguments are a bit blunt. There are no direct spoilers that would jump out when skim-reading such as "X dies" or "Y and Z get married" but some things may be given away. So just a few more points I especially want to make.

Being more used to Tolstoy's English contemporaries, such as Dickens or George Eliot, I always felt there was something missing in not having substantial working-class characters. In the second half there are more non-aristos, but we don't hear their internal thoughts; often the peasants and workers have something close to a hive-mind, or they are idealised types like Platon Karaetev (whom I must admit to liking regardless). Tolstoy's politics made him sympathetic to the working classes, but he started life at the other end of the social spectrum from Dickens, and slavery had only just been abolished in Russia when W&P was written - so, despite good intentions, he may not have had the same sense of working people and the poor as individual and interesting personalities. This seems obvious having heard that Pierre was based partly on himself. (He also has no qualms in heaping praise on this character or in giving him an incognito adventure that suggests Peter the Great. One can also see similarities in other characters, such as the rather meta collecting and reading of history books.) A negative way to talk about Pierre would be as a class tourist embarked on a particularly intense Eat, Pray, Love style experience - able to endure hardships better than most due to a strong constitution and healthy upbringing, and to get sympathy in the right places via his noble manner and education. But it can't be denied that difficult experiences can be transformative for many such, regardless of the cynicism it's common to apply these days.

And Natasha was based on Sofiya Tolstoy. She's one of the most widely praised characters in classic literature, but I'm afraid I just don't get it. The scenes where she's acutely miserable are brilliant, I was with her all the way, but also thinking like Winona in Heathers... I didn't know she was so deep. Otherwise she's a cute flibbertigibbet who manages to say the right things, who must be more appealing on film than on the page. I much preferred Maria, because she was such a thinker and I could understand her many struggles with bad sides of herself, (and admire her success).
Lev was often uncomplimentary about his characters' appearance and later on re. Natasha he does his thing of liking things that society doesn't. One wonders what Sofiya thought, but it seems almost everyone does these days, to the point of its becoming tedious. It was almost funny to see him say of Napoleon, "never to the end of his life was he able to understand goodness, or beauty, or truth, or the meaning of his own actions, which were too much the opposite of goodness and truth, and too far removed from everything human for him to be able to grasp their meaning. He could not renounce his actions, extolled by half the world". Shows how times change. Once Tolstoy was admired widely for his pacifism and politics. But nearly everything I've heard about him in the past couple of years (and more recently about Gandhi, whom he inspired), is how badly he treated his wife. As has been common among great writers, he can be very observant and wise on the page, though a pain to live with; it might have been nicer for others if he'd lived alone with some paid help.
The episode on family life near the end is remarkably Victorian-English in its ideals and prescriptions (and it contrasts itself with an implicitly more decadent French approach) - and includes - as a somewhat more matriarchal, stronger form of the Angel in the House - that concept shared by both patriarchy and many strains of feminism that women are supposed to be a taming, civilising influence on men and by extension society. One gets the impression that the women in that section had rather more say in their lives than Mrs Tolstoy, because they didn't have to spend time transcribing manuscripts.

I often wonder if modern authors of historical fiction make characters too empathic. Tolstoy may not have been universally representative in his own politics, but I think he'd have made accurate observations of behaviour at executions and battles regardless. He shows a tendency whereby soldiers or others can be quite friendly and helpful at rest, but can go into a killing mode where they don't care, and not always when they need to (men upset by carrying out executions, for example). I'm still reluctant to project this further back in time; measurable phenomena like decreases in capital punishment and violent crime indicate something changing over time in many (though not all) societies, and most obviously from the nineteenth century. [General theories, though not without flaws, in works by Stephen Pinker & Lloyd DeMause.] In Tolstoy's time there were still people around who'd lived through 1812 (he interviewed them for the excellent battle scenes, and it shows), so he can say "If in our minds we have formed an opinion of the arbitrariness and crude force characteristic of that time, it is only because the legends, memoirs, stories, and novels that have come down to us record only the most outstanding cases of violence and brutality. To conclude that the prevailing character of that time was brutality is as incorrect as it would be for a man who sees only treetops beyond a hill to conclude". But I am less certain about applying that to older examples, such as those you could find in reviews of [book:A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century|568236].

When I was a kid, someone said to me "War and Peace isn't difficult, it's just long". Whoever it was, was quite right. There are a lot of ideas and characters in it, but it's also a big soapy story, nicely told. (Especially if you ignore the Epilogue.)


Notes on War & Peace, halfway through, 31/10/13

- A four star book. It's not all that - not the best thing I've read this year (Mason & Dixon and Life A Users Manual), nor the best major nineteenth century novel as far as I'm concerned (Middlemarch or Bleak House). But it's certainly not terrible.
- Changed from the Edmonds translation to P&V after about 100pp. Whilst P&V do make word choices that annoy me and sometimes sound too modern, there is a liveliness to their version that makes it quicker to read and easier to concentrate on. Given that I just want to get through the thing, that was the priority. (I can understand why some people call this book boring.)
- P&V's intro, notes and summaries of historical characters are great and mean it's almost possible to read the book without needing anything else. What they could really have done with adding, though, is a good selection of maps.
- Quite a bit of W&P is, in the pejorative, lazy sense, Jane Austen-ish: narrowly concerned with aristocratic society and the marriage prospects of young nobles & gentry of the Napoleonic War era. Though with a little more high feeling and scandal than JA would include.
- Emotions are frequently stronger than in British nineteenth century classics. (Oh, those Russians!) And there's an interesting dichotomy of greater insolence (saying or doing various things that would just be unthinkably bad form to the English, without consequence of being entirely shunned from all society) alongside greater worship of authority.
- I don't find Tolstoy to have any more startling insight into human nature than many other well-regarded novelists. Again, he's in no way bad, simply not exceptional among them. He is also overly fond of generalisations about human behaviour and types, a pet hate of mine in fictional narratives, though admittedly a nineteenth century ubiquity. He wrote the book at the age I am now, and I would say that one of the most important things I've learned as an adult is the importance of variation between people and that generalisations, whilst they are incredibly easy to make based on cumulative experience, get in the way of understanding and relating to individuals.
- Perhaps it's inevitable I'd say this being primarily a historian rather than [remind me what the term is for literature grads] but the political and military sections are a heck of a lot more interesting than most of the society stuff in town. (Though the country scenes and landscapes are what I love best. My favourite scene of all so far is Christmas at the Rostovs, which brought to mind the most joyful bits of Bergman's Fanny & Alexander.)
- They simply couldn't help it, being permitted so little access to more interesting things to think about and do, but most of the female characters are relatively dull, with the exception of Marya, with her religion, charity and quiet battle against and not to be like her tyrannical father.
- Religion and a religious message is more significant than in British novels of the time IIRC, though I can't say I'm bothered by it, it's just historically interesting.
- As I remember thinking when I read the first 150pp or so at the start of Oct, (the rest I've read this week) this is a book of fairly normal characters who are included in their mainstream society; there are no Steppenwolves in War & Peace.
- It's quite a relaxing book because - though there is the odd paragraph or scene - it rarely brings up sad memories or reminds me of people I've known.
- Pierre and Andrei are engaged in various sorts of philosophical journey, where what they are doing with their time, their relationships, and all of their lives tends to be bound up in a set of feelings and ideas that is a complete world view which changes over time. (Marya is perhaps similar, it's just that her philosophy is so far entirely static, whilst P & A each change over a number of years in a way I personally understand.)
- Tolstoy is rude about the appearances of so many characters in a way I can rarely recall from a serious writer. Some of these descriptions perhaps sound more pejorative nowadays, but there are people described as unattractive etc. At the start he also seemed fixated on describing characters' mouths but this has now worn off.
- Given the size of the book I do miss inclusion of significant characters from the middle and working classes in a way that wouldn't really be fair comment on a 300 page novel, or about one which wasn't so frequently described as all-encompassing, “a complete picture of the Russia of its day” etc. Tolstoy, and some of the protagonists, are evidently sympathetic to improving the lives of peasants, but it's all much more distant and marginal than in his English counterparts. (And probably worse conditions: a minor character recounts that he gave three families of house serfs for a pedigree hunting dog. How did their living conditions – as serfs or freemen - compare with those of Industrial Revolution factory workers? Tolstoy is not the place to find out.)
- Never would have occurred to me until I saw it frequently repeated in user reviews that W&P is not a typical novel. Perhaps because of the sort of thing I've been reading, it seems rather conventional in all but size. The other day I found that Will Self had written a rather good introduction to an edition of The Master & Margarita. Among other things he had phrased much better, and embellished, an idea I was also trying to get at in another post a few weeks ago. ...quite as wrongheaded as imagining Tristram Shandy and Don Quixote to be precursors of literary postmodernism. The truth is that all styles and modes of fictionalising were attempted before the crystallisation of the social-realist novel in the nineteenth century; that this one mode has become a deadening - near-Stalinist – orthodoxy says much about the extent to which literature is the complaisant poodle of post-Enlightenment progressivism, and very little about the rites that may be performed at the altar of high art.
- It requires a sort of zen will to endurance that's something I associate with learning or re-learning certain physical skills more than with reading. Though I remember noticing it when I read The Luminaries (830 pages) a couple of months ago. (Also, I reckon Catton got her "infinite sky" - at the start - from W&P.)
- Getting way ahead of myself! Was browsing editions of Proust.
- I'd agree with whoever it was who told me a few years ago that War & Peace isn't difficult, it's just long. It's much like sitting through a classical symphony by a composer not quite to my taste; the structural co-ordination is the most impressive thing about it.

55.0% "Restarting at Vol III, Part Two - about 25 pages before the point I previously left off."
56.0% ""everything it the result of numberless collisions of various wills." Honestly I still have a hard time finding any fault with T's ideas on historical causation, though have a feeling I ought. He was rather ahead of his time compared with plenty of working historians. BUT The lack of working class POVs gives a feeling of sth major missing, compared with great British novels contemporary with W&P."
56.0% "Tolstoy was evidently one of those writers who was very observant and sounded eminently wise on paper but was a bit of an arse to those closest to him. (It would have been more humane for everyone had he lived alone, but the mores of his time were unlikely to lead to that conclusion.)"
56.0% "I find it hard to like Russian culture (which many romanticise)- its imperialism and destructiveness is never mentioned in the literary context. If people went on about it constantly, I might, contrarianly, feel no need to. But they don't. From the destroyed cultures of Siberia (far fewer people left than Nat. Am.s.) to Communism to Putin, there's no handwringing about its colonial tendencies as for USA, UK."
60.0% "Really liked the bit where history book scene of Napoleon's meeting with an ignorant, awed, captured Cossack was dramatised as Lavrushka knowing exactly what he was doing and deciding what impression to give to N."
60.0% "Interesting to note that the difficult Denisov (whom the Wiki summary calls a possible psychopath) is 'rather too closely based' (endnotes) on a real figure.
His tactical insight in this section is an example of one being useful, rather than destructive / disruptive to his society, which D more often is."
60.0% "This book is a big cosy old thing, but the generalisations and tone of superiority - characteristic of C19th novels and which most contemporary writers bar Zadie Smith have dropped - does provoke eye-rolling."
60.0% "And I do still very much like Marya. Other characters I find interesting in a detached way, whereas I care about what happens to her."
60.0% "This would be so much more difficult without the two copies, the ebook that's easy to hold and doesn't hurt to prop up, and the physical copy that provides a sense of how far into the book (as per that research) which I seem to need for books this size, not so much for something of 300pp - and it is much easier to go to the paper copy when notes say "see note 10 to Vol II, part iv", without providing a hyperlink."
60.0% "The most awe inspiring thing about it is the idea of writing it, of being able to hold all this in one's head and move it around in the right way with few mis-steps. (Esp as these days I struggle to hold the thread even of long email correspondences)."
60.0% "The style has too much unaware superiority to be lovable. And the translation, whilst I'm basically used to it, grates at times when there's an innuendo jerking me out of C19th novel land and into Carry On Russian Army or sth. Find myself no longer caring either way that they preserved clumsy sentence constructions - they're just there. But does sometimes make me wish it wasn't their Karenina I have a copy of."
61.0% ""not knowing of his existence, brushed him aside like a chip of wood" (Napoleon's effect on old Prince Bolkonsky.) [Not quite the same as my feeling of being like an ant accidentally stood on by a vegetarian buddhist, but somewhere in the region of.]"
56.0% ""there was broken glass, some of the trees in tubs were overturned, and some were dry. He called out for Taras, the gardener. No one replied. Having ridden round the conservatory to the outdoor beds, he saw that the carved wooden fence was all broken and plums had been pulled off with their branches."
[As in Visitation, post-apocalyptic landscapes of war make continental history & lit. profoundly diff. from British."
64.0% ""(as a horse walking about a slanting treadmill imagines it is doing something for itself), he began to obediently fulfil that cruel, sad, oppressive, and inhuman role which had been assigned to him."
The pendulum swings too far in the other direction from the Great Man theory."
64.0% ""never to the end of his life was he able to understand goodness, or beauty, or truth, or the meaning of his own actions, which were too much the opposite of goodness and truth, and too far removed from everything human for him to be able to grasp their meaning. He could not renounce his actions, extolled by half the world""
64.0% "Such irony in Tolstoy's assessment of Napoleon given how his own star has now fallen and he is widely criticised for his behaviour to his wife & children in particular."
65.0% "Vol III, Part Three.(p.821) Currently reading faster in the paper copy due to its larger pages and chapters only being a few pages long... I daresay my preference will change again before the end." 1 comment
65.0% "And an orrery is the best metaphor I can find so far for how it all moves around so elegantly."
65.0% "I always imagine Pierre as Billy Bunter, rightly or wrongly."
65.0% ""War is the most difficult subjection of man's freedom to the laws of God." - Religious aspect of Tolstoy's view of historical causation. The idae of a grand force pulling the strings reflects the way he constructs the book."
71.0% "PAGE 900. 324 pages to go. The claustrophobia / commitmentphobia that was always there earlier has been steadily falling away as the remaining amount becomes the length of a 'normal book'. And it becomes much easier to enjoy the story and writing for itself."
71.0% "that vague, exclusively Russian feeling of disdain for everything conventional, artificial, human, for everything that most people consider the highest good in the world. Pierre had experienced that strange and fascinating feeling for the first time in the Slobodsky palace, when he had suddenly felt that wealth, and power, and life—all that people arrange and preserve with such care—all this, if it is worth anything,"
71.0% "anything, is so only because of the pleasure with which one can abandon it all. It was that feeling on account of which a volunteer recruit drinks up his last kopeck, a man on a drunken binge smashes mirrors and windows without any apparent reason and knowing that it will cost him his last penny; that feeling on account of which a man does (in the banal sense) insane things, as if testing his personal power and stren"
71.0% "strength, claiming the presence of a higher judgement over life, which stands outside human conventions.
had destroyed the concentratedly grim state of mind in which Pierre had lived for those last days,

[The 'Russian soul', contrasting with.."
72.0% "the amour which the Frenchman venerated consisted mainly in unnatural relations with women and in the combinations of abnormalities that endowed the feeling with its main charm.

[Ideas of national character are rather tenacious over the past couple of centuries - but is that because novels perpetuate them? Med & Ren ones OTOH can be surprising and contradict C20th ideas, eg the English as highly emotional.]"
73.0% "His soul was not in a normal state. A healthy man usually thinks, feels, and remembers a countless number of subjects simultaneously, but has the power and strength to select one sequence of thoughts or phenomena and fix all his attention on it. A healthy man in a moment of the deepest reflection can tear himself away to say a few polite words to someone coming in and then return to his thoughts. But Prince Andrei’s"
73.0% "soul was not in a normal state in this respect. The forces of his soul were all clearer and more active than ever, but they acted outside his will. The most diverse thoughts and notions took hold of him simultaneously. Sometimes his thought suddenly began to work, and with such strength, clarity, and depth as it had never been able to do in healthy conditions; but suddenly, in the middle of its work, it broke off and"
73.0% "was replaced by some unexpected notion, and he was unable to return to it.

[Such an excellent description of the way illness can narrow or jumble thought.]"
73.0% "And that big romantic scene can bugger off because things like that DON'T AND CAN'T HAPPEN. As one must believe for peace of mind."
73.0% "and on his soul lay a vague consciousness of something shameful committed the day before.

[Ah yes, that.]"
73.0% "Pierre thrives on dangerous situations - clearly a missed vocation there."
And under 300 pages to go now."
73.0% "Good timing (on whose part that's meant to be I've no idea)
Thank you The Millions."
77.0% "IV/PtOne: Accounts of two different ways of dying are majestic. Summary execution, bewildered human creatures who on a limbic level cannot believe what's happening to them and instinctively look for help. And one who has had a long time to prepare and let go of the things of the world. [I feel that the book really acquires its depth and worth here...but that's a bit Heathers.]
On to Pt Two."
77.0% "Sometimes wonder reading historical fiction if modern authors make witnesses to execution too empathic - but Tolstoy was a contemporary witness; one with atypical views but one whom I believe would have reported accurately, as well as getting his own views across."
80.0% "In Tolstoy's theory of historical causation, it sounds like you could put the most incompetent possible person in charge and the same result would occur. God's draughts pieces... Chess pieces at least have different powers."
80.0% "Going back a bit... Loved the irony of the Tsar's speech about sacrificing himself for Russia... in French."
80.0% ""Only unconscious activity bears fruit, and a man who plays a role in a historical event never understands its significance. If he attempts to understand it, he is struck with fruitlessness."
[Another example of Going Too Far]"
80.0% "Platon Karataev is another example of the working class being shown as a kind of collective spirit, sometimes an ideal, rather than individuals. He is a lovely old man though and the sort it would be nice to imagine as an ancestor."
80.0% "Comments on soldiers being nice and civilised (at least to prisoners they consider distinguished) but that they fall into some other state / mode / part etc when fighting and being brutal. Must be from 1st hand obvs. To what extent can w judge much of the past on Tolstoy? does seem to be sth in the idea of w. world becoming more civilised (pinker, demause) though none explanations quite satisfactory."
80.0% "This is in a way such class tourism but it also shows what benefits someone can derive from it. But that a hardy, healthy person with a good education and social skills can manage quite well in adverse, deprived circumstances. Some advantages from social class / treatment - but many simply derive from upbringing (and possibly good genes)."
80.0% "Don;t think I;ve finished a one volume book this long cover to cover since Norman Davies' Europe: A History"
80.0% "Incognito Pierre - cf Peter the Great"
80.0% "That famous "drops dripped"."
85.0% "Anti war side - showing what a boys own adventure can turn into. Also war & hardship as transformative experiences, almost new agey revelations like Eat Pray Love"
85.0% "Little oddments: bloodletting & doctors criticised - got better despite them. Someone wanting to put an aspen stake through Napoleon - what relationship to vampire legends?"
88.0% "Now a mixture of 'oh, get it over with' and exhilaration. Something has been purged.

Maria doesn't like one of the things I don't like about Natasha :)
Now only Epilogue & Appendix - still c. 90pp"
90.0% "Very much like the Victorian English ideal of family values (and he contrasts it with decadent French ideas and new fangled ideas that are essentially feminism)"
92.0% "These rants about historiography show mostly that certain terms & concepts were needed: systems; complexity; chaos; feedback (esp re the figure who is produced / influenced by society and in turn influences and directs it)."
94.0% "Fuuucking hell, that was a slog. [Epilogue pt2].
-It's not like I hadn't heard it was.
-Reminds me why I CBA with outdated academic non-fiction
-or with most abstract philosophy."
94.0% "Not surprised that he interviewed battle participants. Those sections were excellent."
88.0% "That ideal of glory and greatness which consists not only in considering nothing that one does as bad, but in being proud of one’s every crime, ascribing some incomprehensible supernatural meaning to it"
94.0% "I have the following rejoinder. I know what this character of the time is that people do not find in my novel—the horrors of serfdom, the immuring of wives, the whipping of adult sons, Saltychikha,3 and so on; and this character of that time, which lives in our imagination, I do not consider correct and did not wish to express. Studying letters, diaries, legends, I did not find all the horrors of that brutality"
94.0% "in a greater degree than I find them now or at any other time. In those times, too, people loved, envied, sought truth, virtue, were carried away by passions; there was the same complex mental and moral life, sometimes even more refined than now, among the upper classes."
94.0% "If in our minds we have formed an opinion of the arbitrariness andcrude force characteristic of that time, it is only because the legends, memoirs, stories, and novels that have come down to us record only the most outstanding cases of violence and brutality. To conclude that the prevailing character of that time was brutality is as incorrect as it would be for a man who sees only treetops beyond a hill to conclude"
94.0% "that there is nothing but trees in that region. There is a character of that time (as there is of every epoch), which comes from the greater alienation of the upper circles from the other estates, from the reigning philosophy, from peculiarities of upbringing, from the habit of using the French language, and so on. And this character I have tried as far as I could to express."
94.0% "FINISHED." ( )
2 vote antonomasia | Nov 3, 2013 |
A true gem of a book. It took me 2 years to complete but it was well worth it. ( )
  hanhuang10 | Oct 29, 2013 |
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