War and Peace

ISBN: 0192833987
ISBN 13: 9780192833983
By: Leo Tolstoy Henry Gifford Aylmer Maude Louise Maude

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Classic Classics Currently Reading Favorites Fiction Historical Fiction Literature Russian Russian Literature To Read

About this book

Tolstoy's epic masterpiece intertwines the lives of private and public individuals during the time of the Napoleonic wars and the French invasion of Russia. The fortunes of the Rostovs and the Bolkonskys, of Pierre, Natasha, and Andrei, are intimately connected with the national history that is played out in parallel with their lives. Balls and soirees alternate with councils of war and the machinations of statesmen and generals, scenes of violent battles with everyday human passions in a work whose extraordinary imaginative power has never been surpassed. The prodigious cast of characters, seem to act and move as if connected by threads of destiny as the novel relentlessly questions ideas of free will, fate, and providence. Yet Tolstoy's portrayal of marital relations and scenes of domesticity is as truthful and poignant as the grand themes that underlie them. In this revised and updated version of the definitive and highly acclaimed Maude translation, Tolstoy's genius and the power of his prose are made newly available to the contemporary reader.

Reader's Thoughts

Apatt

War and bloody Peace eh? Started June 12, 2013, finished August 26, 2013! How am I supposed to review this?! I'll apply my usual rambling slapdash technique I think.War and Peace looks like a formidable challenge for the average reader, in term of length and legendary status, this is not "just another book" you can just read and forget. Personally I read fiction mainly for entertainment purposes (best past time I know), some books I read purely out of curiosity, Some books like Moby Dick I even read for a bragging right (that did not turn out well!). Any way, as far as War and Peace is concerned it's a combo of all three, I am glad to report (not brag) that the result turned out to be more than satisfactory as far as I am concerned. The most daunting part of reading this book is when you tentatively start on the first page and constantly feel aware of the remaining thousand or so pages, I think the trick is just to ignore the remaining page weighing down your right hand and just follow the characters along and see what they get up to. After all you don't need to read the entire book if you don't find the first few chapters to your liking. For myself I kind of cheated and went the audiobook route which add up to more than 60 hours in total (read with consummate skill and probably gallons of coffee by Alexander Scourby). I pity the poor chap who read it but then I remembered he probably took well over a month to finish the reading it.In term of entertainment and readability War and Peace easily met these basic requirements for me. It starts off lightly enough with a "soiree", there are several soirees in this book, they seem like high society dinner parties which I avoid like the plague at every opportunity. The reader is gently introduced to the current situation of the day and some central characters also make their first entrances. The narrative then moves from house to house and we soon meet all the central characters which there are surprisingly few in number. Yes, it's a whale of a book with a large cast of characters but there are only a few protagonists for you to concern yourself with. This book is more about the characters than about two countries at war. Looking at the title I believe it is more about peace than about war, if anything it seems like an anti-war book to me, the message is not communicated through humor and satire like Heller's Catch-22 but through Tolstoy's profound psychological insight and humanity. This makes it more serious and dryer than Heller's book and I did doze through the odd passages but over all I found it much more rewarding.The main source of pleasure for me are the beautifully developed main characters they really came alive once I settled into the groove of the book. My favorite character is certainly Pierre Bezukhov, a chubby, sensitive, thoughtful and compassionate gentleman, not your archetypal heroic figure but certainly not an anti-hero. The best part of reading the book for me was to share Pierre's thought processes. He does tend to overthink things and is prone to changing his mind about what the meaning of life really is (a bit like me but with high IQ); following his internal is akin to some kind of telepathy. The other central characters are also very nicely fleshed out and believable, particularly the main female character Natasha Rostova who practically grows up before the reader's eyes. A few real life individuals such as Mikhail Kutuzov and Napoleon Bonaparte are presented to us as part of the novel's cast of characters, whether their fictional representation is true to the real people I can not say but to live inside their heads is a fascinating experience.The prose style (from the English translated version of it) is just stupendous, Tolstoy seems to casually toss in phrases like "sorrowful pleasure" and put it in just the right context. People who like to pick quotations from a book will have a field day with this one. Nary a page goes by without finding something quotable. Here are a couple I picked almost at random: “Here I am alive, and it's not my fault, so I have to try and get by as best I can without hurting anybody until death takes over.”“Because of the self-confidence with which he had spoken, no one could tell whether what he said was very clever or very stupid.” There are dull chapters and passages in several places of the book, the practical side of warfare is of little interest to me, but those are far outweighed by wondrous materials that feed the brain and the heart. At least I picked up some know ledge about "scorched earth principle" and Kutuzov's military genius. Special mention should be made about the epilogues, the two epilogues total moire than 100 pages, the first one wraps up the story of the protagonists and their settled down lives after the war. The second epilogue is something like a treatise on the nature of power, the real causes and meanings of war and so forth. This part of the book is so dry you may want to read it while in a bath. Still, if you have the capacity to patiently absorb what Tolstoy nave to say about these weighty matter you will probably be the wiser for it.Basically the best way to read this book in whatever format is to immerse yourself in the story, the length becomes fairly insignificant once you are along for the ride, of course you need to have a lot of patience and don't expect to race to the end of the book. Come to think of it reading it just for the bragging right is probably a waste of time. I personally like this book more than Tolstoy's equally legendary Anna Karenina which I also like but I find War and Peace more emotionally resonant. Certainly I am glad I read it, and some day (a few years from now) I would be quite happy to read it again.

Emma Rj

This book is bloated old piece of crap. How this even got published in the first place is beyond me, much less how it has been considered a 'classic' for years.I had read that this was 1400 pages of Tolstoy giving his readers a dry, boring recount of the French invasion of Russia but I didn't believe it. I wish I had believed it. Not only is War and Peace a sleep-inducing lecture on way too many perspectives of this war, it also comes complete with Tolstoy's never-ending butt-in chapters that he uses to force his opinion on us of France, Napoleon, Alexander, Russia itself, religion, politics, love, family, and anything else that apparently came to his mind.This was worse than a textbook. This was a textbook that came with the annoying, opinionated professor built in! The only slightly interesting parts of this book were the lives of Natasha and Ellen and that only accounts for maybe 15% of the total. This book is so bad it has two epilogues. That right there should be warning enough to you to stay far, far away from War and Peace. Don't be as dumb as me.I wish I had never picked this up. I am an angrier, more cynical person for it. If Tolstoy wasn't already dead, I would wish him so.

Martha

THE END. Oh, no, I never want it to end. I want it to go on forever!Ok, so here goes. I am going to attempt a review of War and Peace in my simpleton language. But, I am so adamant about the greatness of this book that I want everyone to read it before finishing life."HURRAH", I finally finished War and Peace (for the second time), but THIS time I really read it and thoroughly enjoyed every word. I think when I read it at 25 it was the “challenge” aspect and didn’t really appreciate all the nuances, philosophies of Tolstoy, etc. because I was too young. At my age now, death is more prominent on my mind, and I appreciate his philosophizing much more.Tolstoy’s writing is so easy to follow. His words just flow from story to story and bring you in close to each person and each family. I felt such warm feelings for Nicholas, Princess Mary, Natasha, Andrew and of course Pierre. My war hero was General Kutuzov. Kutuzov, depicted by Tolstoy, is a man who “adapts to the flow of events and thinks on his feet”. From Tolstoy’s descriptions of Kutuzov, I saw this wise, fatherly image in front of me, a thoughtful and intelligent man.Ah, the war scenes – what emotions Tolstoy brings out in you at each battle. You are right there on the ground looking up at the brilliant blue sky (his landscape descriptions are superb) and you feel the emotions and fear from each scene. The blood, the cold, the fog, the hoar frost on the ground is so clear in your mind. He is a genius.Tolstoy brings religion into many aspects of this tome, but in a way to make you think, not to convert. He gives you bits of what everyone feels and ponders about God and it works your mind. Yes, that is exactly what this book did for me. It made my mind work; really contemplate life. I was left with such good feelings that it made an impact on my philosophy of life.Tolstoy used many analogies throughout that were excellent. One analogy towards the end of the book was about a soldier and how this man represented the cog in the wheel. You are left with immense respect for the soldier. Tolstoy’s writing is very persuasive. He persuaded me to admire Kutuzov, to understand war in general and to rethink the philosophy of life.The only reason it took me so long to read this book is because of the normal interruptions of life. It is such an easy read most people should finish it within a few months easily. I’ve heard some say following the families is difficult. The families are listed at the beginning of the book and I referenced them as a new one was introduced, and it wasn’t bad at all. And, believe me, after getting to know each and every one of the characters, you will become attached and never forget them.War and Peace is number one on my list as the best book ever written, and will never leave that position. I recommend this to EVERYONE!HURRAH!

David Lentz

"War and Peace" is probably the finest literary novel of the 19th century. No serious reader's bookshelf is complete without this masterpiece and the pages fly by because the writing, characters and story line are so beautifully composed. I can't recommend this novel highly enough. If you enjoy it, then please take a closer look at Vasily Grossman's "Life and Fate" which is another, lesser known, 20th century masterpiece inspired by Tolstoy. What are the thoughts of Napoleon as he crosses into Russia? How does he feel after advancing to Moscow to find it abandoned and ultimately aflame? If you were Kutuzov, the Russian Commander-in-Chief, how would you counter a military mind like Napoleon? If you were Tsar Alexander I, how would you greet, or rather or not address, Napoleon demanding surrender of the city in his quest for Asia? If you were a citizen of Russia and witness to this battle of military titans like Tolstoy, how would you capture it on paper? Who would have the audacity, the brilliance, the scope, the pure talent to encompass such an epic and render it sensible? Tolstoy gets into the minds of his epic cast and creates astonishing characters of people who shaped the history of his day. He was Pierre Bezuhov, perhaps, more than anyone and yet he was all of them. The miracle is that Tolstoy rarely ventured far from his country estate. He barely glimpsed the high society about which he wrote so convincingly, so authoritatively and so genuinely. This book makes my all-time Top Five List: it's a supreme literary experience. Daunting though it may seem by its sheer volume, I swear to you, it reads quickly as you become engrossed in this incredible epic tale. The novel's straight-ahead narrative style is easy to comprehend once you place the characters into proper perspective. Each figure is a gem crafted by virtue of his or her character through Tolstoy's gifted portrait work. The women are beautiful and deep, the men are bright and courageous, the turbulent times were a crucible for them all. This is truly a one-of-a-kind masterpiece: it's one of life's great treasures. You owe it yourself to take on this epic work: you will be generously rewarded for your own ambition. You'll never forget it -- ever.

Chiara Pagliochini

"Si dice: le disgrazie, le sofferenze…” esclamò Pierre. “Ma se adesso, in questo stesso istante, mi domandassero: vorresti esser rimasto quello che eri prima della prigionia, oppure di nuovo, da principio, passare attraverso tutte queste cose… com’è vero Dio, un’altra volta la prigionia e la carne di cavallo! Noi crediamo che, non appena qualcosa ci sbalza fuori dalla solita carreggiata, tutto sia perduto: e, invece, soltanto allora incomincia il nuovo, il buono. Fin quando c’è vita, c’è anche felicità."Quando consegni due mesi di vita nelle mani di un solo romanzo e tutte le sere è il tuo appuntamento fisso – spegni la tv, accantona il pc, limita le uscite – allora il rapporto che si crea tra te e quell’opera è tutto particolare, una cosa che non riusciresti a spiegare in due parole senza sentirti terribilmente ingiusto. Perché se è vero che quel romanzo l’hai amato e odiato, se è vero che l’hai carezzato e poi hai desiderato scagliarlo sul pavimento e saltarci sopra coi piedi, è anche vero che hai imparato a conoscerlo molto meglio di quanto conosci qualunque altro e, se così si può dire, è anche vero che quel romanzo conosce te. E come, col passare degli anni, si ha sempre di più da raccontare su un vecchio amico e giorno per giorno veniamo sorpresi da qualche inaspettato guizzo della sua personalità, così la mole dei commenti, dei pensieri, delle riflessioni è troppo consistente per ridurla in due parole. Metà delle annotazioni le dimentichiamo strada facendo, alcune ci sovvengono soltanto alla fine, altre le veniamo contraddicendo pagina per pagina e così, cammina cammina, sei arrivato alla fine: la tua conoscenza deborda, si rifiuta di limitarsi a una frasetta. Con questo, l’autore della recensione si viene scusando della chilometricità di quanto segue. Che cos’è Guerra e paceGuerra e pace è un romanzo storico ambientato in Russia tra il 1805 e il 1820. Particolare attenzione è rivolta a eventi quali la guerra dei tre imperatori, la battaglia di Austerlitz, l’invasione napoleonica della Russia, la battaglia di Borodino, l’abbandono e l’incendio di Mosca, la precipitosa ritirata dei francesi. Anche al più lampante idiota salta all’occhio che una descrizione del genere dev’essere completamente inadeguata. Ebbene, proviamo a darne un’altra. Guerra e pace è un romanzo nel quale gli eventi della Grande Storia si intersecano cogli eventi della piccola storia di due famiglie della nobiltà russa, i Rostov e i Bolkonskij. Mentre la Grande Ruota della Storia avanza su se stessa consumandosi, i Rostov e i Bolkonskij verranno consumando le loro vicende umane, di uomini e donne vitali, disorientati, tutti alla ricerca di un senso che renda giustizia all’esistenza, tutti tesi verso una felicità che vanno ricercando ognuno in una direzione diversa. Il lampante idiota si arriccia i baffi e dice, embè? Va bene, riproviamo. Guerra e pace è un romanzo in cui la Grande Storia e la piccola storia si formano alla visione filosofica e metafisica del suo autore. Che cosa sia la storia, come e da chi venga portata avanti, in cosa consista la felicità, il bene, perché c’è il dolore, la morte, esiste o no il libero arbitrio, sono solo poche delle tante questioni che Tolstoj non manca puntualmente di affrontare, consegnando al lettore una filosofia completa e complessiva di enorme portata. Questa terza definizione piace ancora meno al lampante idiota, che solo alla parola “metafisica” ha fatto una smorfia. Il lampante idiota, nella sua lampante idiozia, ha cominciato a chiedersi dove stia la verità e come in un romanzo possa finirci tutta questa roba insieme. Il lampante idiota ha ragione: la nostra definizione pecca già nell’esordio. Sì, bisogna essere sinceri col lampante idiota. Ebbene, vi inganniamo. Guerra e pace non è un romanzo. Ahimè, no. Non è un romanzo perché per essere romanzo dovrebbe non essere anche un trattato storico. Non è un romanzo e non è un trattato storico perché per essere romanzo e trattato storico dovrebbe non essere anche un trattato filosofico. Quel che sia Guerra e pace non è facile a dirsi e, se una parola è possibile, allora Guerra e pace dev’essere un universo, un universo staccato dal nostro, con le sue leggi di gravitazione particolari, un universo solido, funzionante, completo, che Tolstoj ci consegna in luogo del nostro. Consegnandoci il suo universo, Tolstoj viene in qualche modo a privarci del nostro. Per due mesi, viviamo altrove, due mesi ospiti della Galassia-Tolstoj. I personaggiCome, alla fine di un viaggio, più che i posti che abbiamo visto ricordiamo le persone con cui li abbiamo visti e le disavventure, le risate che li hanno accompagnati, così di Guerra e pace ricorderò i personaggi – le persone – che m’hanno accompagnata nel viaggio più che le tappe del viaggio in sé. E temo d’averlo detto più di una volta, per più di un romanzo, ma mai è giusto e sacrosanto quanto questa volta: che a considerare questi personaggi solo dei personaggi si fa un torto a Tolstoj e a se stessi. Mai quanto in questo caso il personaggio è tanto vero, chiassoso, debordante di vita da non poter più essere figurina di carta. Qualche giorno fa, a lezione, il professore di letteratura russa ha raccontato di un tale internato nei gulag che diceva di essere riuscito a sopportare quella terribile esperienza perché il pensiero gli andava alla famiglia Rostov, all’autenticità di Nataša, Nikolaj, del vecchio conte. E così, se una cosa tanto potente può accadere, se pensare a Nataša può risollevarci da una situazione estrema di prostrazione, lenire la nostra disperazione, allora la giustificazione non possiamo trovarla in una somma di tratti particolarmente convincente. A volte si è così presi dalle vicende umane di questi esserini di inchiostro e corteccia che si scoppia a piangere da una riga all’altra, senza motivo, perché si è troppo felici o troppo tristi o perché quello che accade a loro accade contemporaneamente a noi, la loro vita è la nostra, anche se tra le due non c’è alcuna somiglianza. A molti potrà sembrare un’esagerazione e confesso che suona un po’ sciocco anche a me che lo scrivo, ma è andata così. Per due mesi ho camminato e mi sono guardata allo specchio e ho pensato a me stessa come se non ci fossi solo io, circondata da un crocchio di fantasmi che mi imponevano i loro pensieri e le loro concezioni di vita. E ho parlato da Pierre, son stata male come Andrej, ho cercato Nataša nel mio riflesso. Ho dimenticato che al di sotto della finzione c’ero ancora io, sono stata leggera. È impossibile in questa sede dare una definizione o anche solo menzione di tutti i personaggi del romanzo. Per questo motivo ho deciso di sceglierne uno solo, che poi è di nuovo Nataša, e per ogni strada mi sembra di tornare a lei. Nel film del ’67 la prima apparizione di Nataša avviene così:Inquadratura in campo medio - il salotto di casa Rostov. La contessa Rostova, il marito e alcuni ospiti tra cui Pierre Bezuchov siedono su poltroncine, prendono il tè, si scambiano pettegolezzi su membri dell’alta società e discutono delle imprese di Napoleone. Al centro dell’inquadratura, una porta chiusa. Tre raccordi sull’asse – la porta si spalanca e Nataša, tredici anni, un vestito bianco, occhi sgranati e un sorriso quasi innaturalmente teso, entra correndo in salotto. La sua figura è investita da un fascio di luce che proviene dal fuoricampo, oltre la porta, ma che sembra emanare da Nataša stessa e si riversa nel salotto come in un quadro del Caravaggio, La vocazione di San Matteo. Inquadratura in campo medio – Nataša si stringe alla madre e le sussurra qualcosa nell’orecchio, poi esce sempre correndo dalla stanza. Quando la porta si chiude, cessa il fiotto di luce. Ora, a parer mio, non c’era modo migliore di introdurre Nataša che questo. Perché Nataša è luce, e questa è la definizione più completa che possiamo dare di lei. Nataša è luce che brilla per se stessa e che al contempo illumina tutti gli altri, facendo dono a ognuno della sua vitalità, della sua luminosità di prospettiva. Grazie a lei, molti altri tornano in vita: il principe Andrej Bolkonskij, il fratello Nikolaj, il conte Bezuchov. Nataša è capace di restituire la forza vitale a chiunque l’abbia perduta, per il solo fatto che la sua forza è così immensa che solo una minima parte le è necessaria. L’altra, può donarla tutta. Ma come il sole non si avvede di illuminare la Terra e non si cura di bruciare il raccolto, di seccare il suolo, di accecare gli occhi, così Nataša, se fa del male, non se ne avvede, non già perché sia cattiva ma perché è centrata su se stessa, non concepisce altri sentimenti che non siano i suoi. Così è Nataša, dilaniata tra impeti di grande generosità e un principio di totale egoismo, il suo egocentrismo essendo spontaneo come quello del sole. Ma allo stesso modo che, con la fine del sole, pure la nostra galassia finirà, senza Nataša la Galassia-Tolstoj collasserebbe, trascinando sul fondo tutti gli altri, impedendo loro di trovare una risposta. WeltanschauungDue parole, il minimo indispensabile, vale di spenderle sulla visione del mondo che non solo emerge, ma è continuamente esplicitata dall’autore. Per Tolstoj, l’uomo non può fare a meno di avere coscienza della sua libertà. Egli sente di agire di sua volontà e capisce che, se il suo libero arbitrio fosse annientato, non sarebbe neanche più umano. Ma quando l’uomo è inserito nel corso della storia e, in quanto tale, è trascinato da eventi immensamente più grandi di lui, allora si perviene a una contraddizione insolubile. L’uomo è sì libero, ma nel contempo è schiavo della necessità della storia. Che la storia si svolga in un certo modo e non in un altro appare a Tolstoj la conseguenza di una necessità, di una predeterminazione più alta, che conduce a un certo fine con certi mezzi, e non altrimenti. Non sono l’uomo con le sue azioni né il caso a determinare il corso degli eventi storici, poiché il loro svolgimento è già scritto. L’uomo pensa di guidare la storia, in realtà ne è guidato.Alla domanda “da chi è ordinato il corso degli eventi?” Tolstoj non offre una risposta netta. Certe volte sembra che sia Dio, “senza il quale neanche un capello cade dal capo degli uomini”, certe volte una necessità che è legge, una necessità che esiste ma di cui non si può capire perché esiste, una sorta di legge di gravitazione universale applicata alla storia. Il problema fondamentale dell’uomo è che si chiede il perché delle cose. La continua ricerca di un senso lo priva della possibilità di essere felice. Per essere felice, l’uomo non ha che due vie, o smettere di chiedersi “perché?” o rispondere “perché è la volontà di Dio”. Al di fuori di queste due vie, la fede o l’indifferenza, non c’è riposo dall’inquietudine. The dark side of Tolstoj Ora, chiunque si accinga a una recensione del genere e voglia nascondere al pubblico quanto Guerra e pace sia al contempo estremamente tedioso e, apparentemente, superfluo in molte sue parti non sarebbe un recensionista onesto. Perché, per il lettore del duemila, Guerra e pace è effettivamente tedioso e superfluo in molte sue parti. L’editor di una qualsiasi casa editrice oggi ne sfronderebbe la maggior parte, per presentarci una vicenda ripulita da tutti i suoi orpelli, dalle descrizioni di avvenimenti bellici estremamente complesse e complicate da visualizzare, da personaggi minori il cui impatto sul lettore risulta solo in un incremento di noia. Tolstoj è uno scrittore molto diverso dagli scrittori che conosciamo, dagli scrittori di oggi. Innanzitutto, è uno scrittore che non sembra in alcun modo curarsi del suo pubblico. Che il lettore lo segua o no, che si interessi o meno, Tolstoj va per la sua strada, incauto, irriverente, egoista. Elitario, impopolare, anti-democratico, poco rispettoso del giudizio altrui, sono tutte cose che mi sento di dire di Tolstoj senza temere di offenderlo. Perché se, nello scrivere Guerra e pace, Tolstoj immaginava un possibile pubblico di lettori, allora non poteva che visualizzarlo come tanti piccoli, barbuti Tolstoj, tutti ugualmente interessati a ciò che aveva da dire. Ma il lettore medio, no, non è interessato almeno al 60% di quel che Tolstoj dice. Sospira, sbuffa, non vede l’ora di scavallare i capitoli in cui Napoleone ha il raffreddore. Ma proprio per questo enorme limite di sensibilità e comprensione per il prossimo, Tolstoj si qualifica uno scrittore molto più grande dei suoi colleghi contemporanei. Uno scrittore che scrive quel che vuole scrivere fino in fondo, che non risparmia nulla di quel che vuole dire, che dice quel che vuole dire pur sapendo quanto sarà noioso, che non accetta di prostituirsi ai gusti dei lettori più superficiali, quelli che vanno in cerca solo di belle frasette: ecco, uno scrittore del genere non può definirsi altro che onesto. Tolstoj è questo: l’onestà nella sua forma più cruda, con tutti i limiti (apparenti e non) che l’onestà porta con sé. E se vi state chiedendo, “ma insomma, questo libro t’è piaciuto così tanto oppure ti sei annoiata così tanto?”, la verità sta certamente da entrambe le parti. M’è piaciuto così tanto nonostante mi sia annoiata così tanto. Sembra una contraddizione insolubile, come quella tra necessità e libero arbitrio, il cui scioglimento sta nell’accettarla come una verità di fede. Il mio augurio è che possiate, un giorno, prendere in mano questo libro, prenderlo in mano in un periodo libero da impegni, un periodo tranquillo o magari disperato della vostra vita. Il mio augurio è che i suoi difetti superficiali non vi impediscano di vedere quanto sia straordinario nel suo centro, quanto vi possa arricchire non come lettori, ma come persone. Perché Guerra e pace – ormai il lampante idiota ha capito – è questo, non solo un libro, ma una diversa esperienza di vita.

Michelle

Since this is the 3rd time I’ve read War and Peace, I think I have some good advice for how to maximize your appreciation of it, besides being 30 years older the 3rd time.It is a historical novel, but I think the first two times that I read it, I did so without comprehending the historical parts and only retained the plot narrative as it pertained to the characters. However to appreciate it for its full breadth, I would recommend the following:First: know some history about Napoleon, at a minimum, know he was from Corsica, from a big family, know about Toulon, and know about the Napoleonic wars from 1805 through 1812. Spend two or three hours on the “cliff notes“ version of his life. Then another hour on 1805. The best way to learn about the French invasion of Russia in 1812, (referred to in Russia as the Patriotic War) is to read “DEFEAT, Napoleon’s Russian Campaign” by Philippe de Segur, which was written by one of Napoleon’s aides during that war, but was written ten+ years afterwards. A must read.Second, know some Russian history, specifically between the years 1800-1812. Know that Emperor Alexander was only 24 when he became emperor, by essentially a Russian version of a coup d’état. The inner circle detested his father Emperor Paul, son of Catherine the Great, so they murdered him making Alexander the Emperor. The Russians (at the time) had a thing for their dynasty, the Romanovs, and whenever they didn’t like the emperor they just went down the line to another one, sometimes a wife (Catherine the Great) or brother, not always the son. This also helps to explain their fierce devotion to the emperor by all classes of society. The Devil you know is better than the devil you don't. Plus he.she is Russian (well, except for Catherine the Great)Third, know that you are not reading a novel in the normal use of the word. Even at the time it was written, people were confused. It has a basic plot about the lives of four Russian families, and their dramas. It also follows some of the male members of these families as they go to war, in 1805 and later on up to 1812. These male members happen to observe many historical figures such as Napoleon, Alexander, General Kutuzov and of course happen to be where critical historical turning points occurred. In short, the book presents both the home front and the war front. But even beyond this, Tolstoy writes a lot about history, the philosophy of history, how historians make mistakes and made mistakes in their interpretations of the events described in the book. He also philosophizes about war, why men make war, and presents the point of view that in some cases, maybe all cases, war is inevitable; being the confluence of four or five circumstances beyond any one person’s control. Then he’ll write a passage suggesting that Napoleon isn’t necessarily responsible for the destruction because he wasn’t the one pulling the triggers. That passage reminded me of Buffy Sainte Marie’s famous song Universal Soldier. It’s interesting to note that Tolstoy became a pacifist later in life. I wonder how many theses and dissertations were written about the correlation between the massive research he must have done on these wars that cost hundreds of thousands of lives, and this later philosophy of his. Fourth the translation. When I read it during class at UC Berkeley in 1978, the translator was Constance Garnett. I don’t remember who the translator was the second time, probably the same. The 3rd time the translator was Maude but ¾ of the way through I switched to Pevear and Volokhonsky which came out in 2007. I also continued to read some passages by Maude. In short, I recommend you just read Pevear and Volokhonsky. They translate the French for you, which Maude does not, and also it is just easier to read. They also maintain they are truer to the original Russian, and give examples in the preface, comparing their translation with two or three others. I was sold. If you do this, your first read of War and Peace will be as satisfying as my third.

David

I feel like I have been reading War & Peace forever. I'm used to reading about a book per week, and this mammoth took me four months! It somehow felt like a longer book than In Search of Lost Time, and probably too about as long to read despite being 1/3-1/4 the length. While the content is often spot-on and interesting, there are problems with the construction of War & Peace that make it an interminable read. Firstly, the book is not purely novel. It is a hybrid blend of novel, historical theory, and military journalism. While we primarily follow the times and trials of the Rostovs, Bezuhovs, and Bolkonskys, we also follow the personal and militaristic exploits of Napoleon, Tsar Alexander, and Kutuzov, et al. There are also lenghty discussions about history, the interpretation of history, and the over-valuation of freewill of individuals. While Tolstoy is masterful in all of these contexts, his jumps between them feel abrupt and stall the momentum of the novel. Likewise, because of the broad scope of the novel, the many characters, locations, and exploits, the jumping between narratives also results in a slackened momentum. As soon as I am getting into the story of Prince Andrey, I am transported to the drawing rooms of Petersburg or Moscow and must re-immerse myself in the story of Pierre or the Rostovs. Fortunately all of the narratives are quite compelling (unlike the insufferable Levin/farming slogs in Anna Karenina).It has been said, by whom I don't know - but seemingly repeated by everyone willy-nilly, that War & Peace is "about everything." I don't know that I agree with this statement, but nonetheless it does cover a large tapestry of the human condition and particularly Russian society. However, I find much more of life in Proust, or in Joyce, than I do in War & Peace - and for that matter, I find more in Anna Karenina. While the present novel has a certainly very large scope, and a truly epic feel, it lacks some of the emotional depth of character that I have seen in Tolstoy's other "big book." Comparing Natasha to Anna is to show how paltry the development of the former and the sophistication and vibrancy of the latter. While the are characters which seem to be well-developed and complex, such as Pierre, or at times Prince Andrey and Princess Marya, many of the characters seem to be stock characters or one-dimensional. There is little on can say about Petya Rostov, about Anatole Kuragin, about Elena Bezuhov, etc. Many of the characters weave in and out of the narrative and play important roles only in so far as they orbit the novel's major celestial bodies. On the contrary, the narrower scope of Anna Karenina (certainly a family drama as opposed to a national epic) allows for a complexity in character for all the major and sub-major characters, from the Oblonskys to the Karenins, the Vronskys, the Levins.What seems to be a chief interest of the younger Tolstoy is the role of history as an external force. A force which is at one and the same time the culmination of many freewills, and also a separate and predetermined force. He is prone to pointing out that while Napoleon is credited with the campaign of the French army, his successes would have been impossible without the voluntary choices and freewills of all of the men beneath him. Though he gave orders, many times they were not received on the battle field, etc. Tolstoy holds few punches in diminishing Napoleon's accomplishments, and accredits history, the motive force of some predetermined trajectory, with many of his successes and also failures. Strangely, Tolstoy spends a significant portion of the latter part of the novel defending the strategic choices of commander in chief Kutuzov, though by his own logic, his role was as insignificant.It is unusual for me to read "historical fiction" - it always feels a bit stilted to put words and emotions and glances onto the body of someone who truly existed, felt, and moved. Having learned about Napoleon, about Alexander, there is a distance from me which they have in my mind. They are separated from me by death. And rather than having the effect of communing with the dead, I rather feel I am communing with their impostors, with well disguised mannequins, who look and are addresses as Napoleon, as Kutuzov, as Tsar Alexander, but are wholly unoriginal. Conversely, I feel that the barrier between reality and fiction is much thinner - I feel that I have lived with Pierre, with Natasha, and Nikolay and Andrey, I have lived side-by-side with them for four months, they feel very real to me, though they are simply inventions of Tolstoy's imagination. Their roles in history are minor, but the scope of the novels establishes their personal histories, which I can relate to as a person. The life of Napoleon is incomprehensible to me, it is too large, on too grand a scale, but the troubles of Pierre Bezuhov seem to exist for me on the same earth as my own struggles, my own life. I have not fought a war, nor joined the free masons, nor married a harlot, but I have felt as Pierre has felt - he could exist in any place or time, and it only so-happens that he was born into the realm of history, while Napoleon seems to have given birth to that history.

Katie

The edition I read, 1300 pages, is Oxford “World’s Classics.” Now I know why… War and Peace has to be one of the most amazing books I have read. Where to begin. I guess the thing I enjoyed the most about it, and what impressed me the most, was Tolstoy’s depth of insight and perception of human nature, spanning social classes, men, women, and children. By the end you feel that you know the characters so well that you could recognize them in a crowd on the street. And there isn’t just one or two main characters that this applies to. There are whole families of main characters, but I didn’t feel challenged in keeping track of them. They are so believable, you just get to know them in spite of yourself. They start out as social acquaintences among the wealthy Russian gentry, and you follow them through battles, illnesses, romances, military hospitals, war captivity, death, debt, and life-changing perspective shifts. You have the experience of the War of 1812 right along with them, with things gradually getting worse and more intense, looking back and thinking, I never thought things would come to this. But here we are. I am still me, but I have grown and changed, and these others - I can remember a time before I met them but I know them so well now that I can’t remember how it felt to not know them.This is my criteria for an excellent, compelling book: Through the telling of a story, the author imparts to the reader the same feelings and experiences that the characters are having. By reading the book you live out in a partial, but convincing and moving way, the same thoughts, emotions, and discoveries that the story describes. This is a subtle, hard-to-pin down quality. Something in the pacing, the way and timing in which information is revealed or concealed… Obviously it comes with the author’s skill in describing people and events. Choice of words, to evoke the right imagery that really resonates with the reader. That’s the magic of good writing - you don’t have to work to imagine. The visuals spring unbidden to your mind, as if they couldn’t be any other way. A few brief external words later, you have envisioned internal truths.Many of the descriptions and characters resonated with me in an “ah, yes. This I know. True, that.” kind of a way. But other things, like the descriptions of the characters’ experiences in battle, taught me a lot of new things about what it must be like to be a man, a soldier, a soldier in combat. These kinds of things are timeless, I think. A socialite in the early 1800’s, a young army officer in the early 1800’s - we are not so different in these modern days. Human nature still rings true, when it is truly captured in words, and so masterfully as Leo Tolstoy has done in War and Peace.I would recommend it to anyone.——One tiny note: You have to be patient with Tolstoy. He kind of goes off on his ideas about the philosophy of history, especially in the later portion of the book. I found it interesting, but maybe repeated a few too many times…

Emily May

So... I did it. I finally convinced myself to read War and Peace, partly because it's just something everyone wants to say they've done, and partly because one always needs a good excuse to procrastinate during the exam period when I should have been studying. And, you know what, I really enjoyed most of it. The novel is far less taxing than I imagined, I don't know if that's because the English translation goes easy on us non-Russians or because Tolstoy wrote it in a quite light-hearted fashion. I suspect I shall never find that out for myself.Personally, I think a much better title for this book would be War and People. Because, though an in-depth look at history during the time Napoleon had ambitions to take over Europe, this is first and foremost about humanity and Tolstoy observes humanity and all its weirdness with a sense of humour and occasionally sadness. I don't like to make too many predictions about the older authors, some people will tell you that Bram Stoker was a feminist and William Shakespeare was a humanist, I think these are quite melodramatic conclusions to make about authors who lived in societies where they would struggle to be that.However, Tolstoy may or may not consider himself liberal, forward-thinking, a humanist, and I wouldn't state that he is any of those things. But I think his perception of the human condition in the nineteenth century shows he is somewhat before his time in his ability to see almost every character as flawed, confusing but ultimately human. He manages to construct a comphrehensive view of humanity and Russian culture at the time in question, complete with betrayals and scandals and affairs. But though the characters may place blame on one another - like calling Natasha a hussy - Tolstoy appears to remain impartial. Those who stray from the conservative path of the nineteenth century do not do so without reason.Another reason that War and People is a much better title for this book is because there is very little peace going on in here. There are times when the battles aren't raging, of course, but there is always something equally dramatic happening within the social world of Russian high society. People falling in and out of love, people having affairs, wealthy aristocrats dying and leaving their fortune to illegitimate sons. It seems to me that there's a constant war going on in this book, just sometimes it isn't on the battlefield.And oddly enough, it was the real wars in War and Peace that interested me least of all. They were probably the reason this book got four stars instead of five - and because goodreads rating system is about personal enjoyment rather than literary merit. I felt much more entertained by the soap opera that was the lives of the Russian nobles than by the tedious and repetitive battle scenes. There were guns and canons and horses - riveting. But thankfully, like I said, Tolstoy's masterpiece is more about people than anything else and this is the reason that I saw this book through and enjoyed the journey.

Litchick (is stuck in the 19th century)

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goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just becauseThis is the book that never ends.Yes it goes on and on, my friends.Some people started reading it not knowing what it was,And they'll continue reading it forever just because...

Emilian Kasemi

Read...Currently reading...To read...Always!

Joshua Treviño

It is difficult, in reviewing classics, to say things about them that have not been said before. It is especially difficult when those classics are part of the literary canon; and even more difficult when those classics are not mere novels, but purposeful epics. It is in this light that reviewing Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace is a challenge. The massive book — ranging from 900 to 1,500 pages, depending upon the edition — is a cornerstone of anyone’s list of all-time great literature. Strangely, few have actually read it; and few reviewers of new editions do more than assess relative merits of the latest translation.Therefore: the one thing the reader ought to know about the new translation of War and Peace from Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky is that it is worth reading, both in itself (the book is a classic in any translation) and in this particular form (this translation is superb). As with every other review of this edition, this one must start with what is new about it: the translation.The husband-and-wife team of Pevear and Volokhonsky have built a long and successful career on translating Russian works into English. (I still recommend their translation of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, which kept me company in my Army days, as the best around.) They are ideally suited to the task, not merely by virtue of their marital compatibility — a translating team spends nearly as much time together as a married couple, and probably communicates better — but by virtue of their birth. Volokhonsky, as might be guessed, is a native Russophone, and Pevear’s first language is English. In a column in the New York Times on October 14th, 2007, Pevear described the method of their collaboration:---We work separately at first. Larissa produces a complete draft, following the original almost word by word, with many marginal comments and observations. From that, plus the original Russian, I make my own complete draft. Then we work closely together to arrive at a third draft, on which we make our “final” revisions.---This is, of course, the idealized process. The actual work of conveying literature, with its poetry and rhetoric more or less intact, from one language to another is necessarily slow and inexact. Douglas Hofstadter, the author and professor of computer and cognitive science at Indiana University at Bloomington, addressed this problem at length in his book Le Ton beau de Marot. In this, a rather simple little poem by the 16th-century French poet Clément Marot — "A une damoyselle malade," or "To an ill girl" — is shown to have a surprising number of possible translations from French into English, with none of them quite right. There are dozens of variations in Hofstadter’s book. The necessary tradeoffs, even in Marot’s simple verse, are swiftly evident. Literal accuracy, or rhetorical beauty? Rhyme structure, or metric consistency? Cultural fidelity, or cultural comprehensibility? These are the issues with which translators must contend. The perverse, like Vladimir Nabokov in translating his rigid and un-lovely Eugene Onegin, simply give the reader their ideal of literal exactitude. The more well meaning will often give the reader their idea of comprehensibility in both the rhetorical and cultural spheres. Thus, Constance Garnett, who translated the great works of 19th-century Russian literature into Edwardian-era English, not only rendered prose as would an English novelist of her era: she also “translated” cultural concepts into familiar objects of reference for her intended readers. As a pseudonymous Amazon reviewer of the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation of War and Peace notes, in previous translations, “we often get ‘holy images,’ attended ‘Mass,’ ‘the Virgin Mary,’ etc., instead of ‘icon,’ ‘attended Liturgy,’ or ‘the Theotokos.’” It is pleasing to report that though the occasional clunky passage survives in its over twelve hundred pages, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky have done well by War and Peace. And well they should have: as Pevear notes, in translating, they each read the massive work five times.Beyond the translation, there is the great work itself, which presumes to take on the very topics of its title. The grand sweep of its epic, to say nothing of the welter of Russian names and perhaps-unfamiliar places, is daunting to many readers. (Who knows where Mozhaisk is, or why it matters?) They should not feel ashamed of this: the very first sentence of the book presupposes a grasp of European politics and Russian society circa 1805, and the inferences and references never let up. It is a peculiarly Russian work, of course — the French invasion of 1812 was to Tolstoy’s generation what the Civil War was to our grandfathers’ — but it is nonetheless comprehensible to Europeans grounded in their own history. For an American, War and Peace is something else: not an artifact of our own heritage, but a work we read to sustain and deepen our connection to the West at large. Its themes of sacrifice, patriotism, and humanity are universal. Leo Tolstoy was not, it must be said, the master of the human condition that many of the other literary greats were — Shakespeare, for example, or even his contemporary Dostoevsky — and this shows through even in the superlative Pevear/Volokhonsky translation. In life, the great author was keenly interested in developing his own thesis of Christianity, which veered into that curious territory where extreme altruism and profound selfishness intersect. A rare Russian aristocrat who cared for his peasants, he treated his devoted wife with often shocking neglect; he was excommunicated from the Orthodox Church; and he ended up dying at a train station while essentially running away from home as an old man. War and Peace, with its long internal essays on history, fate, and morality, gives us a glimpse into the mind of this troubled and brilliant figure, as his plot and his characters bend to his ideas of life and meaning.Tolstoy was a contemporary of the men whom the philosopher Karl Popper called the historicists — that is, those who believed in the superiority of historical “laws” and inevitability to God-given free will and volition — and he shared much of their thesis. He did not, as some of them did, deny the possibility or relevance of human goodness and choice; but he did believe that those choices only affected a limited context, and mostly concerned one’s internal state toward himself and God. War and Peace, then, is to a large extent a historical exposition on why the individual does not matter to history, even as he does matter to his Creator. A central character of the work, Pierre Bezukhov, undergoes a transformation throughout from dissolute if well-meaning youth, to solid paterfamilias with an assured sense of God and self — and the transformative event is a death march in French captivity, in which he realizes that all is for naught in this world. Similarly, the wartime mistakes of the Russian generalissimo Kutuzov are excused as historical inevitabilities which Kutuzov had the wisdom to accept. Tolstoy’s view here is wholly alien to the American character, and its relation to the Christian view is dubious (certainly the Orthodox Church saw little good in it). It does not follow from this that the Christian should not read it. To the contrary, it is a work so very rich, despite its flaws, that it is endlessly rewarding to those who persevere and allow themselves to become happily entangled in its endless narrative. Is it the best Russian novel? Is it the best Tolstoy novel? Is it the best 19th-century novel? It is none of these things: Tolstoy himself wrote better novels, Anna Karenina chief among them; Zola’s La Debacle is a far superior exposition of battle; and nearly everything is shorter. But we ought to read War and Peace nonetheless. We read it because, like Everest, it is there; we read it to join Prince Andrei on the field at Austerlitz; we read it to enter the mind of the young Natasha, insane with what she believes is love; and we read it because in it, as in all great art, we find something of ourselves.

Matthew

I sincerely doubt that I will ever read this book again, or ever feel any desire to. I can certainly see how and why it has secured its place as part of the canon, but I did not find the characters and their lives compelling enough to overcome the annoyance I felt with Tolstoy's personal vision of history and life in general. There were moments when I came to care about what was going on in the book. I sympathized with Prince Andrey's broken heart and Pierre's search for meaning and I was genuinely interested in what choice Nikolay would make in regards to Sonya and Marya... some of the time. Prince Andrey recedes into the background in the latter half of the book, only to reappear briefly so that he can die a sudden, anticlimactic and boring death. Pierre meanders so aimlessly between various ideas and goals that I could only become frustrated with him and Nikolay is at times such a flat lifeless character that I could not care at all about him one way or the other. War and Peace is so large that no story line ever comes to fruition and instead of being a truly complex epic it seemed to me that it was only the raw material from which several great books could have been made. Without any genuine interest in the characters I could only hope that War and Peace would be, in some way, intellectually interesting but I found it even more deficient in this regard. Tolstoy does not believe in free will, great men, the usefulness of rational thought, or military science. I know these things because Tolstoy uses these ideas like a cudgel, beating the reader about the head and shoulders. He does not trust in the reader enough to allow them to draw the ideas from the story and so makes numerous digressions to explain the same opinion as he just explained some fifty pages ago, using almost the same words, as often as not. Worse yet, the second epiloge is devoted exclusively to reiterating them one final time, using only the barest semblance of a rational argument, which is hardly surprising since he has already told us time and again that it is impossible to change any ones mind using words, and the only knowledge that matters is that which comes from ones gut and mystical revelation.In final summation, the only other book that has ever produced such a visceral exhasperation in me is Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Perhaps, as with Atlas Shrugged, time will change my opinion of War and Peace, but I am not hopeful

Jennifer (aka EM)

Thank you, Mr. Tolstoy.

Matt

(I'm starting this review just pages before the epilogue, and it is painfully clear that there is nothing that can redeem it at this point. I would like to note that I don't feel any version of this book would have been any better or worse, and so I will not take issue with the translation, done by Anthony Briggs.) The novel's reputation precedes it, and unfortunately is almost entirely unwarranted. I purchased this book half-expecting it to be every bit as epic and grandiose as the generations of its readers have proclaimed it to be, and at this point I am left with nothing but a feeling of betrayal, quite simply. It is not that I heaped expectation upon expectation, lest I paint myself as someone unreasonable, but to put it bluntly, I found this book to be sub-par, at best, the only thing remarkable about it being its length. The prose itself is unbearably drab and dull, but I will give Tolstoy the benefit of the doubt, and attribute this to Mr. Briggs's translation (although I'm not fully convinced this is the case). Nevertheless, while his ambition is evident, this "sweeping epic" is nothing but fragmented and episodic bits of mediocrity. The cast of characters is extraordinarily large and diversified, but this is not to anyone's credit, for it seems he himself couldn't keep track of their development and so abandoned it altogether. All of the characters, differing in name and sex alone, share one single trait: fickleness. For all his chances at producing one, there is not one well-rounded character in the whole of the novel. Each time one of its core players is touched upon (which is at varying lengths, as there is a good deal of undisciplined rambling), they are almost entirely unrecognizable and drastically changed, be it in their religious views, love interests, or career ambitions. There are no static characters in the work, but nor are there any fully fledged creations either. (If I had to venture a guess as to why this would be, I would say he simply forgot his intentions in between tangents, that run on for hundreds of pages.)One of my main contentions with the novel is the underlying tone of nationalism, and borderline propaganda, evidenced most clearly in Tolstoy's painting its removed antagonist, Napoleon, in a clearly biased light. I care little for history, or the Frenchman himself, but there is a sense of childishness in Tolstoy's refusal to acknowledge his role in the military conquests of France under his reign. The term 'sore winner' comes to mind. On numerous occasions (which reminds me to include also that the book is at times horribly repetitive), he (Tolstoy) adopts the most absurdly fatalistic approach to the descriptions of the military campaign, refusing to attribute any French success to the planning of their generals, but rather to the 'infinitesimals' that are always at work in the world, those infinitely minor examples of chance that could have gone hither or thither with the slightest whim of fate. No amount of Napoleon's planning contributed to his victories, they were simply the only outcome possible when one considers all the ineffable goings-on, and the natural course of things unknown, and so on. And yet, later, in some of the most hypocritical writing I’ve ever come across, when the French army has completely exhausted itself... it is attributed to Napoleon's poor planning (or lack thereof), and aforementioned infinitesimals and uncontrollable circumstance go out the proverbial window. To read such contradictory passages with a straight face was extremely difficult for me, and filled me with some contempt for the author. The novel is also marked by an iconoclastic approach to history itself. Perhaps hundreds of pages are dedicated to the denigration of historians and their fanciful retellings of the book's events, and yet what is this novel but Tolstoy's own skewed and embellished take on the Napoleonic Wars (albeit intermingled with half-baked melodrama)? His is perhaps the most unforgivable take upon the subject matter, given its longevity and the generosity posterity has shown it. This was another example of hypocrisy that didn't sit well with me at all, and made progress increasingly difficult. Stepping away from the famed historical events (the core of the work), one can look at the more intimate lives of the characters, and plainly see there is nothing terribly exceptional, original, or compelling about them. Fortunes unwittingly inherited and lost, duels, promiscuous wives and impulsive teenage love, snobbish socialites and shrewd politicians, et cetera, et cetera. There is nothing in this novel that hadn't already been done, and done better, or that hasn't been surpassed countless times since its publication. I will not pretend that I did not enjoy some of the characters SOME of the time, but in over a millennium of pages, these precious few passages are hardly redeeming. This book is overrated trash. Save yourself the time, and read three or four others, more modestly written and far more fulfilling.

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