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War and Peace (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)
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War and Peace (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

4.4 185
by Leo Tolstoy

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War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:


War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

The most famous—and perhaps greatest—novel of all time, Tolstoy’s War and Peace tells the story of five families struggling for survival during Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.

Among its many unforgettable characters is Prince Andrey Bolkonsky, a proud, dashing man who, despising the artifice of high society, joins the army to achieve glory. Badly wounded at Austerlitz, he begins to discover the emptiness of everything to which he has devoted himself. His death scene is considered one of the greatest passages in Russian literature.

The novel's other hero, the bumbling Pierre Bezukhov, tries to find meaning in life through a series of philosophical systems that promise to resolve all questions. He at last discovers the Tolstoyan truth that wisdom is to be found not in systems but in the ordinary processes of daily life, especially in his marriage to the novel's most memorable heroine, Natasha.

Both an intimate study of individual passions and an epic history of Russia and its people, War and Peace is nothing more or less than a complete portrait of human existence.

Joseph Frank is Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature and Slavic Languages and Literature at Stanford University. He is the author of a five-volume study of Dostoevsky’s life and work.

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From Joseph Frank’s Introduction to War and Peace

Tolstoy’s masterly portrayal of military life, already evident in his earlier work, reaches new heights in War and Peace on a much larger scale. No other novel can compete with Tolstoy’s in the superb panoply he offers of regimental displays and parades, and of battle scenes seen both from a distance and in close combat. Also, as Marie Eugène Melchior, vicomte de Vogüé, noted in Le Roman russe (1886), his pioneering book on the Russian novel, which brought writers like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky to the attention of the European public, no one could compete with Tolstoy in his portrayal of the life of the court and the upper reaches of society. The Vicomte himself, who had frequented the Russian court, remarks that when writers attempt to portray such closed social circles of the highest society they rarely succeed in winning the confidence of their readers; but Tolstoy had no such difficulty because here he was “in his native element.” He was in his native element as well, after his years in the Caucasus and in Sevastopol, in the many scenes in which the rank-and-file Russian soldiers banter with each other around their bivouacs or while marching to and from their battles.

Nothing fascinated Tolstoy more, at least in this period of his career, than the mysterious force that, as he put it, moved millions of men to march from west to east and then back again, all the while “perpetrat[ing] against one another so great a mass of crime—fraud, swindling, robbery . . . plunder, incendiarism, and murder—that the annals of all the criminal courts of the world could not muster such a sum of wickedness in whole centuries.” How could an event of this kind have taken place, “opposed to human reason and all human nature,” while at the same time “the men who committed those deeds did not at that time look on them as crimes.”

The problem of war and warfare more and more preoccupies Tolstoy as the book moves on, and it evolves into a theory of history whose ideas are scattered throughout these later chapters and argued theoretically in the second epilogue. Sir Isaiah Berlin’s The Hedgehog and the Fox views Tolstoy as a fox, unremittingly occupied with the minutiae of particulars while longing for the unitary vision of the hedgehog “who knows one big thing.” His brilliant and stimulating pages have given Tolstoy’s views on history a new prominence, but this is not the place to plunge into their philosophical complexities. As a great novelist, Tolstoy dramatizes the pith of his doctrines with illuminating clarity, and we can grasp their essential point by citing a few scenes from the book.

One such point is the impossibility of those presumably in command to anticipate what will happen on the battlefield, and thus the uselessness of all elaborate plans prepared in advance. The Austrian general Weyrother presents such a plan before the battle of Austerlitz and is certain that it will bring victory; but the combined Austrian-Russian forces are badly beaten. An even more elaborate plan is proposed before the battle of Borodino and proves equally useless. The reason for such failure is illustrated by the account of the minor battle of Schöngraben, where Prince Andrey watches the behavior of the Russian commander Prince Bagration as the fighting proceeds.

All sorts of contradictory reports came in, but “Prince Bagration confined himself to trying to appear as though everything that was being done of necessity, by chance, or at the will of individual officers, was all done, if not by his order, at least in accordance with his intentions.” As a result, officers who were “distraught regained their composure” and morale was strengthened. For Tolstoy, it was morale that ultimately decided the course of combat—the morale of the soldiers and the behavior of individuals like the unprepossessing Captain Tushin, who pays no attention to orders, responds to the immediate situation, and, as only Prince Andrey realizes, is really responsible for the Russsian success at Schöngraben . Tolstoy thus rejects the “great man” theory of history, particularly thinking of Napoleon, which attributes military success to the superior capacities of a leader capable of dominating in advance the uncertainties and vicissitudes of what transpires on the battlefield.

Prince Andrey learns another Tolstoyan lesson when, sent to report on a minor victory, he is ushered into the presence of Emperor Francis of Austria and discovers that those presumably in command had little or no interest in what really occurred to those fighting and dying on their behalf. The questions he is asked by the Emperor are completely trivial; no opening is provided him “to give an accurate description, just as he had it ready in his head,” and he realizes that the “sole aim” of the Emperor was to put a certain number of questions. “The answers to these questions, as was only too evident, could have no interest for him.” Much the same point is made about those supposedly in command, like Alexander I and Napoleon, who are so far removed from the reality of battle that they have no control over the result. Tolstoy is particularly concerned to undermine the reputation of Napoleon and does so in numerous scenes that display him as an ordinary mortal, extremely self-confident and erroneously convinced that he had complete mastery of the situation. Nothing astonishes him more than the Russian refusal to reply to his overtures for peace after capturing Moscow.

Meet the Author

A Russian author of novels, short stories, plays, and philosophical essays, Count Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) was born into an aristocratic family and is best known for the epic books War and Peace and Anna Karenina, regarded as two of the greatest works of Russian literature. After serving in the Crimean War, Tolstoy retired to his estate and devoted himself to writing, farming, and raising his large family. His novels and outspoken social polemics brought him world-wide fame.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
September 9, 1828
Date of Death:
November 20, 1910
Place of Birth:
Tula Province, Russia
Place of Death:
Astapovo, Russia
Privately educated by French and German tutors; attended the University of Kazan, 1844-47

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War and Peace Barnes & Noble Classics Series) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 185 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This review isn't for War and Peace (which is one of the greatest novels ever written), but this particular edition. Barnes and Noble Classics provides a wonderful, durable copy with an excellent translation for cheap. Why the loss of the star then? For two reasons. The first is that the footnotes are terrible. Arbitrary material will have a useless footnote and times when it would've been handy are ignored. The second is that the back cover of the book ruins the ending for you. Granted, this is a book widely discussed, so many already know how it turns out however, for the few who don't, this type of thing proves to be absolutely infuriating.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It took me a year to read Anna karenina and it took me less then a month to read war & peace. This is by far the best work that leo Tolstoy as written. Its amazing how well and life like his charecters can be. he really captures the human emotions of people when they are faced with hard and good times. I also enjoyed how he followed some of his charecters from childhood to adulthood and how their behavior changed with that age. This is by far one of the greatest pieces of literature ever written. I advise teenagers to read this book. Its not a waste of time and this is coming from a 14 year old. Please read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
War and Peace is an outstanding analasyse of human culture, but you need to have a background on literature to be able to understand it, and some knowledge of Russian culture. If you do understand it this can be one of the best books in the world, but if you don't you'll fall asleep before the first chapter is over.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is hard to describe just how good this book is. Tolstoy is a captivating author and the use of language is incredible. I found myself laugh out loud in a couple of parts and the characters were very well developed. Absolutely awesome book, don't be intimidated by the size of this book, it's worth every minute.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book it's just sad
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Why did Leo Tolstoy write War and Peace? I came across an interesting tidbit on the web that said General Kutuzov, having left no heirs, left his estate to the Tolstoy family. I couldn't quite find out whether the author was indeed a member of the family of the beneficiaries of Kutuzov, but in any case, then the case can be made that, at least in part, the novel was written as a way of redeeming Kutuzov's reputation; as it was tarnished by historians up to the time of the writing of the book. To this end, Tolstoy excrutiatingly builds the case against those historians who had excoriated Kutuzov, and in the end, demolishes those historians with a compendium of the most brilliant arguments I have ever read. The whole point of building his complex web of characters and plots was, to my thinking, to justify Tolstoy's end conclusions. Along the way so many topics are covered -- and so well-covered -- that this is a book that should be one everyone's "bucket list". Read this book before you die!
The_Beastlord_Slavedragon More than 1 year ago
I still do not understand this book. I'm like the kid who read Dotsevsky for school. I read Tolstoy again and I still don't really get it all. I liked Andrey. I put down the book when he died. I liked Natasha and her Uncle even better, during the sleigh ride. I enjouyed Andrey's likening himself to the leaveless oak who is way beyond spring and eternally wrought year round in winter's clothing. The battles and chess analogies and the ever Imperial Madame Pavlovich. You gotta love that name. The portrayal of Napoleon's King of France made me laugh. He was like a Pimpernel or something, lost in war. Other than Dune, it is the most complete book on the human pageantry which I have ever read. I need several more readings.
TheQuillPen More than 1 year ago
One of the greatest books ever written, Tolstoy's "War and Peace" captures the spirit of human existence itself and is heart-warming, exciting, humorous, and sad all at the same time. Tolstoy's knack for capturing human-beings as completely unique, seemingly real, rounded people enhances the core, epic plot of his tale, and his writing style guarantees that the expansive novel will never be boring. The vast range of emotions that the reader experiences when reading "War and Peace" makes it connect like nothing else can. Tolstoy's work is strangely accessible and easy to read and understand, which, in the case of "War and Peace" increases the beauty of the story in its day-to-day life approach. The characters differ widely; from the alternatingly cynical and hopeful Andrey, the misguided, likeable Pierre, the gorgeous, dauntless Natasha, and the pious, sacrificial Marya to the arrogant, air-headed depiction of Napoleon, the devious Dolohov, the obnoxiously pretentious Ellen, and her foolish brother Anatole, they capture different people and are all relatable in one way or another. The scope of the novel is impossible to put into words. From a heart-wrenching scene of two enemies coming to the same fate of death from wounds to the melancholy depictions of lost love, to pictures of rare joys, "War and Peace" transcends literature and becomes life as every human being has experienced it in some way. Truly a genius work of art!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I always enjoy Tolstoy's work, and this is by far his best. The intimate relationship which one develops with so many of the characters allows you to see the same events from different perspectives. People that are hesitant to read this book because they believe since so much history is involved, it will bore them to death like a textbook, should really give it a chance. The relationship the reader forms with the highly developed and true to life characters makes the historic elements, such as different battles in the Napoleonic war, very interesting and enjoyable. Tolstoy proved with this work that he had a deep and great understanding of human emotion and nature. That he was able to successfully work all these characters into a true historic context, is only a testament to his genius as a writer.
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