War and Peace (Pevear/Volokhonsky Translation)

( 64 )

Overview

From the award-winning translators of Anna Karenina and The Brothers Karamazov comes this magnificent new translation of Tolstoy's masterwork.

War and Peace broadly focuses on Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812 and follows three of the most well-known characters in literature: Pierre Bezukhov, the illegitimate son of a count who is fighting for his inheritance and yearning for spiritual fulfillment; Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, who leaves his family behind to fight in the war ...

See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
$13.09
BN.com price
(Save 34%)$20.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (26) from $8.77   
  • New (17) from $12.02   
  • Used (9) from $8.77   
War and Peace (Pevear/Volokhonsky Translation)

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$12.99
BN.com price

Overview

From the award-winning translators of Anna Karenina and The Brothers Karamazov comes this magnificent new translation of Tolstoy's masterwork.

War and Peace broadly focuses on Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812 and follows three of the most well-known characters in literature: Pierre Bezukhov, the illegitimate son of a count who is fighting for his inheritance and yearning for spiritual fulfillment; Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, who leaves his family behind to fight in the war against Napoleon; and Natasha Rostov, the beautiful young daughter of a nobleman who intrigues both men.

A s Napoleon’s army invades, Tolstoy brilliantly follows characters from diverse backgrounds—peasants and nobility, civilians and soldiers—as they struggle with the problems unique to their era, their history, and their culture. And as the novel progresses, these characters transcend their specificity, becoming some of the most moving—and human—figures in world literature.

An essay on translating WAR AND PEACE by Richard Pevear

To many prospective readers Tolstoy's War and Peace is the most intimidating of literary monuments. It is there, like a vast, unexplored continent, and all sorts of daunting rumors circulate about life in the interior. But once you cross the border, you discover that the world of War and Peace is more familiar and at the same time more surprising than the rumors suggested. That is as true for the translator as it is for the first-time reader.

We spent three years working full-time on the translation, revising it, copy-editing it, proofreading it twice, meaning that each of us read the novel some five times in Russian and in English. Yet even in my final checking of the proofs, I still found myself delighting, laughing, or holding back my tears as I read. An example of this last is the moment near the end when Pierre and Natasha, after all the harrowing experiences they've lived through, finally meet again in Princess Marya's drawing room. Pierre sees that Princess Marya has someone with her, but doesn't realize who it is. Princess Marya is perplexed.


She again shifted her gaze from Pierre's face to the face of the lady in the black dress and said:

"Don't you recognize her?"

Pierre glanced once more at the pale, fine face of the companion, with its dark eyes and strange mouth. Something dear, long forgotten, and more than sweet looked at him from those attentive eyes.

"But no, it can't be," he thought. "This stern, thin, pale, aged face? It can't be her. It's only a reminiscence of that one." But just then Princess Marya said: "Natasha." And the face, with its attentive eyes, with difficulty, with effort, like a rusty door opening – smiled, and from that open door there suddenly breathed and poured out upon Pierre that long-forgotten happiness of which, especially now, he was not even thinking. It breathed out, enveloped, and swallowed him whole. When she smiled, there could no longer be any doubt: it was Natasha, and he loved her.


What makes this passage so moving is not only the drama of the moment itself, but the way Tolstoy has sensed it and captured it in words. It can't be paraphrased; the translator has to follow as closely as possible the exact sequence and pacing of the words in order to catch the "musical" meaning of the original, which is less apparent than the "literal" meaning, but alone creates the impression Tolstoy intended.

I've said "translator," and in a sense our collaboration is so close that the two of us make up one translator who has the luck to be a native speaker of two languages. That situation has its advantages. Translators are always in danger of drifting into the sort of language that is commonly referred to as "smooth," "natural," or, as they now say, "reader friendly," and is really only a tissue of ready-made phrases. When that happens to me, as it sometimes does, Larissa is there to stop me. Where I have my say is in judging the quality of our English text, that is, in drawing the line between a literal and a faithful rendering, which are not at all the same. If the translation does not finally "work" in English, it doesn't work at all.

I'll take an example of what that collaboration can produce from Tolstoy's description of the Russian army crossing the river Enns. After a good deal of confusion, the hussar captain Denisov finally manages to clear the infantry from the bridge and send his cavalry over. As the first riders move onto the bridge, Tolstoy writes: "On the planks of the bridge the transparent sounds of hoofs rang out . . ." The Russian is unmistakable—prozrachnye zvuki "transparent sounds"—and I find its precision breathtaking. It is pure Tolstoy. To my knowledge, it has never been translated into English. What we find in other versions is the "thud" or "clang" of hoofs, and it is likely that I would have done something similar if Larissa had not brought me back to what Tolstoy actually wrote. His prose is full of such moments. Coming upon them and finding words for them in English has been one of the most rewarding aspects of our work.

Here is a very different and rather amusing example of the search for fidelity. Count Ilya Andreich Rostov, Natasha's father, is giving a banquet in honor of General Bagration. Ordering the menu, he insists that "grebeshki" be put in the "tortue." I assumed that tortue was French turtle soup, but what about grebeshki? The Russian word can mean either "cock's-combs" or "scallops." Which would you put in a turtle soup? I did research into the uses of cock's-combs, but with rather unappealing results. I looked at previous translations: one has "scallops" and thinks the soup is a "pie crust"; another has "cock's-combs" but in a "pasty"; in a third the "cock's-combs" are in a "soup"; the fourth agrees about the soup, but puts "croutons" in it.

Going by my own taste, I decided to put scallops in the turtle soup. This reading got as far as the first set of page proofs. Just then we met by chance (at a dinner in Paris) a woman who used to run a cooking school. We asked her which it should be. She, too, was puzzled. A few days later we received a long email from her. She had become so intrigued by our question that she went to the French National Library the next day and looked up the history of the culinary use of cock's-combs. She was happy to inform us that they came into fashion precisely around the time of the Napoleonic wars and were a key ingredient in turtle sauce. Suddenly the whole passage made sense, because the chef replies to the old count's order: "Three cold sauces, then?" The other translations have "three cold dishes" or "entrees," with no relation to sauces at all. Thanks to Mme. Meunier, we were able to make the correction in the second set of proofs.

But does such a small thing really matter? Well, it certaintly did to Tolstoy. What this seemingly trivial detail reveals is the extraordinary accuracy of his memory, even in the smallest things. Cock's-combs had gone out of fashion by his time, but he knew where to place them and in what.

Tolstoy's prose is a rich, fluid, multivoiced artistic medium. There is, for instance, a war between the French and Russian languages in War and Peace that mirrors the war between the French and Russian armies. His play with French and with gallicized Russian is a major element of social satire in the novel's composition, allowing him the sort of linguistic infiltrations later found in Joyce and Nabokov. This adds a verbal dimension to War and Peace that English readers don't suspect is there, because previous English translations have eliminated it. But this precocious modernism is never word play for its own sake. It is always moved by passion.

The world of War and Peace envelops you. It is full of uncertainties, surprises, constantly shifting perspectives, but once you enter it you feel that you're in sure hands. Over it all is that "infinite sky" that Prince Andrei discovers as he lies wounded on the field of Austerlitz. This vast unity that embraces the greatest diversity is the secret, the mystery, of Tolstoy's art. It presents a great challenge to its translators, as I've tried to suggest in a small way.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Shimmering. . . . [It] offers an opportunity to see this great classic afresh, to approach it not as a monument but rather as a deeply touching story about our contradictory human hearts.”
—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World

“A major new translation . . . [which] brings us the palpability [of Tolstoy's characters] as perhaps never before. . . . Pevear and Volokhonsky's new translation gives us new access to the spirit and order of the book.”
—James Wood, The New Yorker

“Excellent. . . . An extraordinary achievement. . . . Wonderfully fresh and readable. . . . The English-speaking world is indebted to these two magnificent translators for revealing more of its hidden riches than any who have tried to translated the book before.”
—Orlando Figes, The New York Review of Books

"Tolstoy's War and Peace has often been put in a league with Homer's epic poems; it seems to me that the same might be said for Pevear and Volokhonsky's translation of his great novel. . . . Their efforts convey a much closer equivalent in English to the experience of reading the original."
—Michael Katz, New England Review
Full review here: http://www.nereview.com/29-4/29-4Katz.htm

Michael Dirda
…a fine new translation, especially one by the widely acclaimed team of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, offers an opportunity to see this great classic afresh, to approach it not as a monument (or mausoleum) but rather as a deeply touching story about our contradictory human hearts. Stressing that their War and Peace sticks more closely to the Russian text than any other, including Louise and Aylmer Maude's semi-canonical 1923 version, Pevear and Volokhonsky retain the considerable amount of French used by Tolstoy's counts and princesses, preserve the author's penchant for word repetition and aim to match his tidy syntactic conciseness. The result certainly reads smoothly, its English being neither egregiously contemporary nor inappropriately old-fashioned. In this respect, the Pevear-Volokhonsky War and Peace joins company with recent translations of The Tale of Genji, Don Quixote and In Search of Lost Time, these being among the few works of classic fiction equal to Tolstoy's in scope and richness.
—The Washington Post
The Barnes & Noble Review
We might as well face it at the outset -- War and Peace is a big book. In length, obviously: nearly 1,250 pages in this translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. That makes it heavy to lug around, and when I read it in bed it left a dent in my sternum. And it requires a big commitment: unless you took the same speed reading course Woody Allen did (he read it in 20 minutes and reported: "It involved Russia"), it takes a big chunk out of your life to read. It's big in ambition, too: there's Tolstoy's, of course -- it took him more than ten years to write, research, and rewrite -- but closer to home, there's yours, if this is a mission you choose to accept. Reading War and Peace -- or being seen to do so -- is a sign that you are a Serious-to-the-Verge-of-Pretentious Person. The few times when I was caught reading it in public I felt sheepish.

I'm not trying to be flippant. Since reading War and Peace over the summer, I've come to think that everything important one takes away from it is due to its size. Because Tolstoy deals with world-historical events like Napoleon's invasion of Russia, the book could feel like potted history. But Tolstoy cannily uses the vast space at his disposal to make the experience of reading about these bygone battles and people both real and made-up seem rounded and authentic. At one end of the scale, he periodically stops the flow of time and action to contemplate lots of stuff that doesn't fit in a narrative sequence: the presumptuousness of human ambition, the limitations of our ability to analyze the reasons why things happen as they do, the differing roles of the historian and the novelist.

At the other end of the scale, Tolstoy positively luxuriates in small moments, lounging about in details that a tough-minded editor would cut on grounds of space and yet which stay in my mind far longer than abstractions, no matter how profound. There's an exhilarating moment when Denisov, a short hussar with a speech impediment whom none of the women ever takes seriously, moves to the floor to dance the mazurka: "On the downbeat, he gave his lady a victorious and jocular sidelong look, unexpectedly stamped his foot [and] bounced off the floor springily.... [S]preading his legs, he stopped on his heels, paused like that for a second, tapped his feet in place with a clanking of spurs, spun quickly, then, tapping his right ankle with his left foot, again flew along in a circle." There's the old nanny Anna Makarovna, who has a trick that never fails to thrill the children (and me): "[B]y a secret known only to herself, Anna Makarovna knitted [two stockings] at once on her needles, and which she always drew triumphantly one out of the other before the children, when the stockings were finished." (By the way, there's video online of knitters who can perform Anna Makarovna's trick -- and a lot of them quote Tolstoy.) These are moments when a private piece of a person's character flashes out; Tolstoy grants us the ability to glimpse and understand these moments intimately, but how many times in life have we seen such moments and missed them?

Tolstoy has us enter his imposing edifice through a frippery occasion, although the hostess, Anna Pavlovna, wouldn't thank us for saying so. She has carved out a niche in political soirées where everybody speaks the best French. Tolstoy likens her to a factory owner who keeps the spindles and wheels running smoothly. Why begin here? Well, for one thing, we get a glimpse of the people inhabiting the corridors of power in Russia, with public grandstanding and private influence peddling, and we also experience for ourselves the shiny banality of their faces, clothes, smiles, and conversation. For another, we meet the two main male characters, neither of whom fits comfortably into this world. The aristocratic newlywed Prince Andrei ought to, and yet he holds himself sardonically aloof, even from his cute little pet of a wife. Pierre Bezukhov, the illegitimate son of a dying count, is a bit more of an outsider, newly arrived from Paris and eager to enter into the swing of things. He is merely inadvertently awkward.

Life is so messy and disorganized -- or, conversely, so structured by outside forces -- that it's hard to know which man has adopted the better strategy for coping. Neither, though, is happy with his choice; both come up against a moment that seems to call them imperiously to some more authentic way of living. I think of Rilke, faced with an implacable ancient torso of Apollo: "You must change your life." Easier said than done. Tolstoy's Napoleon hasn't an inkling of that kind of heroism. And how to persuade us of its possibility, let alone accomplishment, in fiction?

I come back to size. Ever since high school English, I've distrusted short stories with that moment of epiphany that's supposed to betoken a cataclysmic change of heart. Even the most skilful -- Joyce's "The Dead," say, or Flannery O'Connor's "Revelation" -- don't really manage to overcome my suspicion that the life that will continue after the story stops wouldn't really turn out to be all that different. Give me a good couple hundred pages at least to see how someone can muster the will over the long haul to change his life. Tolstoy gives us plenty more than that, allowing his characters the room they need to develop in credible ways.

War and Peace covers a long span of time -- about 15 years all told. And precisely because it can seem to take almost as long to read, whatever change characters undergo -- or choose -- feels real. Take Natasha: to my mind charming even when infuriating, she starts as an ardent 13 and ends a very different figure at 27 -- but that's such a stage of flux that it's not surprising. (I can't resist quoting: "She valued the society of the people to whom, disheveled, in a dressing gown, she could come striding out of the nursery with a joyful face and show a diaper with a yellow instead of a green stain, and hear comforting words that the baby was now much better.") Lying wounded on the battlefield of Austerlitz, the initially cynical Prince Andrei has a vision of the eternal that alters everything about his life -- but precisely because it's so far out of everyday experience he cannot express it to anyone. Tolstoy, however, opens Andrei's heart to us in a way that makes what is inexpressible entirely believable. And then there is Pierre. He begins as an overgrown frat boy, bumbles into a spiritual conversion, hatches a ludicrous plan to alter the course of history...what a mess! He's also fat and conversationally a bit odd, which makes it all the harder for a lot of people in and out of the novel to take him seriously. And yet by the end, we see him become magnanimous, even wise. How has this come to be?

Pierre is (if I were forced to choose) my favorite character, and the constant effort of his inner self's unfolding -- seeking, striving, losing its way, giving up, regrouping -- is for me the most compelling plot line. Through a typically human combination of ill-informed choice and accident, Pierre becomes a common prisoner of war when the French reach Moscow. But something odd happens when he shares a life of imprisonment with ordinary foot soldiers: "The very qualities which, in the world he formerly lived in, were, if not harmful, at least a hindrance to him -- his strength, his scorn of life's comforts, his absentmindedness, his simplicity -- here, among these people, gave him almost the status of a hero. And Pierre felt that this view obliged him." Are we here witnessing in Pierre, about one thousand pages in, a real understanding of what humans owe each other, a true conversion? Maybe so -- but it doesn't mean there aren't a few slips, follies, and downright failures in his future. And that feels authentic, too.

I've read War and Peace once before, at 21, and vividly remember holding forth in class about it. It was chastening this summer to discover that I'd forgotten almost everything about the novel except that it involved Russia. Fortunately, the bits I did remember -- the Battle of Austerlitz, the scenes from family life at the end -- were still compelling. There were many times in the past few months when Tolstoy's world became my world. Sometimes I'd just slip in for a little visit -- reading a chapter or two (almost all are conveniently short) standing by the stove while waiting for the coffee water to boil or sitting in the car in the interstices of suburban-mother carpooling. At night I would fall into it for chapters at a time, and snatches of Tolstoy would roll about my head during the day, such as the memory of Andrei falling in love despite himself: " 'And what makes her happy?' Prince Andrei asked himself with involuntary curiosity." Or the bedtime prayer of Platon, a peasant whose life seems to have no discernable shape: "So there, Lord, lay me down like a stone, raise me up like a loaf." I hope never to witness a wolf hunt or a mob baying for the blood of a scapegoat, but there's been time for them, too, in Tolstoy's vast narrative expanse.

The novel is so long there's even time to be bored every now and then. I say this, by the way, as a compliment. "Bored" might be the wrong word; what I mean to describe are moments when nothing much to my mind is happening, or nobody I like is talking. My longueurs are probably not yours. But such moments are part of life, too, and have their own lessons. Long novels, I find, teach me patience with characters and ideas that would be easy to turn away from in life (and short fiction). Natasha's younger brother Petya may dream of the tsar, Mother Russia, and glory in battle in ways I don't find congenial, and yet I feel more tender toward what I see as his foolish gallantry than I might have if I had not encountered them in the context of Tolstoy's enormous canvas. I also have Petya to thank for the hypersensitive description of nocturnal waiting for the dawn of battle, just as memorable as Henry V walking the fields incognito the night before Agincourt: "Drops dripped. Quiet talk went on. Horses neighed and scuffled. Someone snored."

So the short version is: I loved my summer of War and Peace and am grateful for the translation that inspired me to read the novel again. I don't know any Russian, but I have read a number of other translations by Pevear and Volokhonsky -- most memorably, for me, their Brothers Karamazov, which was an absolute revelation. It was like a brilliantly cleaned painting, bringing out thrilling touches, caustic details, and even grimly funny highlights that just hadn't appeared to nonexperts before. This Tolstoy translation doesn't sound at all like the other ones of theirs I've read, but then, of course it's a different book. At first, I found the language stilted and artificial; it made the party scenes and military planning meetings that open the book slightly slow-going for me. And yet isn't that part of the point? I quite like the decision they made about the French conversations in the original. They leave them untranslated in the text (which means you can tell when characters are speaking in French and speculate about why they might be doing so), but they render them in English in notes at the bottom of the page. Pevear and Volokhonsky also have scads of historical and explanatory commentary tucked in the back, which I mostly ignored in the full flood of reading but which made a kind of fun self-quiz when I'd finished.

For anyone who still hasn't had enough of War and Peace, there's another translation newly available -- this one of Tolstoy's first version of the novel. When it reappeared in Russia a few years ago, the publisher pushed it as "half the usual length, less war and more peace, no philosophical digressions." Tolstoy had apparently thought of calling it All's Well That Ends Well. You'd be quite correct to think that it's a rather different book from the one he went on to write. Andrew Bromfield, the English translator, gamely tries to make the case that even first-time readers of the novel will enjoy it, but since most of his descriptions of what's truly interesting about the book lie in comparing the two versions, it makes more sense to read the famous longer one first. And as if all this weren't enough, I've been intrigued by the unabridged audiobook Naxos puts out -- 70 hours over a span of 51 CDs. It sounds like a big project for all concerned, but summer will be here before I know it. --Alexandra Mullen

Alexandra Mullen left a life as an academic in Victorian literature to return to her roots as a general reader. She now writes for The Hudson Review (where she is also an Advisory Editor), The New Criterion, and The Wall Street Journal.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400079988
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/2/2008
  • Series: Vintage Classics Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 1296
  • Sales rank: 51,410
  • Product dimensions: 9.14 (w) x 5.92 (h) x 1.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Count Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) was born in central Russia. After serving in the Crimean War, he retired to his estate and devoted himself to writing, farming, and raising his large family. His novels and outspoken social polemics brought him world fame.

Richard Pevear has published translations of Alain, Yves Bonnefoy, Alberto Savinio, Pavel Florensky, and Henri Volohonsky, as well as two books of poetry. He has received fellowships or grants for translation from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the French Ministry of Culture. Larissa Volokhonsky was born in Leningrad. She has translated works by the prominent Orthodox theologians Alexander Schmemann and John Meyendorff into Russian.

Together, Pevear and Volokhonsky have translated Dead Souls and The Collected Stories by Nikolai Gogol, The Complete Short Novels of Chekhov, and The Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, Notes from Underground, Demons, The Idiot, and The Adolescent by Fyodor Dostoevsky. They were twice awarded the PEN Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize (for their version of Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov and for Tolstoy's Anna Karenina), and their translation of Dostoevsky's Demons was one of three nominees for the same prize. They are married and live in France.

Biography

Count Leo Tolstoy was born in 1828 on the family estate of Yasnaya Polyana, in the Tula province, where he spent most of his early years, together with his several brothers. In 1844 he entered the University of Kazan to read Oriental Languages and later Law, but left before completing a degree. He spent the following years in a round of drinking, gambling and womanizing, until weary of his idle existence he joined an artillery regiment in the Caucasus in 1851.

He took part in the Crimean war and after the defence of Sevastopol wrote The Sevastopol Sketches (1855-6), which established his literary reputation. After leaving the army in 1856 Tolstoy spent some time mixing with the literati in St Petersburg before traveling abroad and then settling at Yasnaya Polyana, where he involved himself in the running of peasant schools and the emancipation of the serfs. His marriage to Sofya Andreyevna Behrs in 1862 marked the beginning of a period of contentment centred around family life; they had thirteen children. Tolstoy managed his vast estates, continued his educational projects, cared for his peasants and wrote both his great novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877).

During the 1870s he underwent a spiritual crisis, the moral and religious ideas that had always dogged him coming to the fore. A Confession (1879–82) marked an outward change in his life and works; he became an extreme rationalist and moralist, and in a series of pamphlets written after 1880 he rejected church and state, indicted the demands of flesh, and denounced private property. His teachings earned him numerous followers in Russia and abroad, and also led finally to his excommunication by the Russian Holy Synod in 1901. In 1910 at the age of eighty-two he fled from home "leaving this worldly life in order to live out my last days in peace and solitude;" he died some days later at the station master's house at Astapovo.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Books LTD.

Read More Show Less
    1. Also Known As:
      Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 9, 1828
    2. Place of Birth:
      Tula Province, Russia
    1. Date of Death:
      November 20, 1910
    2. Place of Death:
      Astapovo, Russia

Read an Excerpt

Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

Part Three, XV

At eight o’clock Kutuzov rode to Pratz at the head of Miloradovich’s fourth column, the one which was to take the place of the columns of Przebyszewski and Langeron, which had already gone down. He greeted the men of the head regiment and gave the order to move, thus showing that he intended to lead the column himself. Having ridden to the village of Pratz, he halted. Prince Andrei, one of the enormous number of persons constituting the commander in chief’s suite, stood behind him. Prince Andrei felt excited, irritated, and at the same time restrainedly calm, as a man usually is when a long-desired moment comes. He was firmly convinced that this was the day of his Toulon or his bridge of Arcole.[1] How it would happen, he did not know, but he was firmly convinced that it would be so. The locality and position of our troops were known to him, as far as they could be known to anyone in our army. His own strategic plan, which there obviously could be no thought of carrying out now, was forgotten. Now, entering into Weyrother’s plan, Prince Andrei pondered the possible happenstances and came up with new considerations, such as might call for his swiftness of reflection and decisiveness.

To the left below, in the fog, exchanges of fire between unseen troops could be heard. There, it seemed to Prince Andrei, the battle would concentrate, there an obstacle would be encountered, and “it’s there that I’ll be sent with a brigade or division, and there, with a standard in my hand, I’ll go forward and crush everything ahead of me.”

Prince Andrei could not look with indifference at the standards of the battalions going past him. Looking at a standard, he thought: maybe it is that very standard with which I’ll have to march at the head of the troops.

By morning the night’s fog had left only hoarfrost turning into dew on the heights, but in the hollows the fog still spread its milk-white sea. Nothing could be seen in that hollow to the left, into which our troops had descended and from which came the sounds of gunfire. Over the heights was a dark, clear sky, and to the right–the enormous ball of the sun. Far ahead, on the other shore of the sea of fog, one could make out the jutting, wooded hills on which the enemy army was supposed to be, and something was discernible. To the right the guards were entering the region of the fog, with a sound of tramping and wheels and an occasional gleam of bayonets; to the left, beyond the village, similar masses of cavalry approached and disappeared into the sea of fog. In front and behind moved the infantry. The commander in chief stood on the road out of the village, letting the troops pass by him. Kutuzov seemed exhausted and irritable that morning. The infantry going past him halted without any command, apparently because something ahead held them up.

“But tell them, finally, to form into battalions and go around the village,” Kutuzov said angrily to a general who rode up. “Don’t you understand, Your Excellency, my dear sir, that to stretch out in a defile through village streets is impossible when we’re marching against an enemy?”

“I intended to form them up outside the village, Your Excellency,” said the general.

Kutuzov laughed biliously.

“A fine sight you’d be, lining up in view of the enemy, a very fine sight!”

“The enemy’s still far off, Your Excellency. According to the disposition . . .”

“The disposition!” Kutuzov exclaimed biliously. “Who told you that? . . . Kindly do as you’re ordered.”

“Yes, sir!”

“Mon cher,” Nesvitsky said to Prince Andrei in a whisper, “le vieux est d’une humeur de chien.”[2]

An Austrian officer in a white uniform with green plumes on his hat rode up to Kutuzov and asked on behalf of the emperor whether the fourth column had started into action.

Kutuzov turned away without answering him, and his gaze chanced to rest on Prince Andrei, who was standing close by. Seeing Bolkonsky, Kutuzov softened the angry and caustic expression of his gaze, as if aware that his adjutant was not to blame for what was going on. And, without answering the Austrian adjutant, he addressed Bolkonsky:

“Allez voir, mon cher, si la troisième division a dépassé le village. Dites-lui de s’arrêter et d’attendre mes ordres.”[3]

Prince Andrei had only just started when he stopped him.

“Et demandez-lui si les tirailleurs sont postés,” he added. “Ce qu’ils font, ce qu’ils font!”[4] he said to himself, still not answering the Austrian.

Prince Andrei galloped off to carry out his mission.

Overtaking all the advancing battalions, he stopped the third division and ascertained that there was in fact no line of riflemen in front of our columns. The regimental commander of the front regiment was very surprised by the order conveyed to him from the commander in chief to send out riflemen. The regimental commander stood there in the full conviction that there were more troops ahead of him, and that the enemy was no less than six miles away. In fact, nothing could be seen ahead but empty terrain sloping away and covered with thick fog. Having ordered on behalf of the commander in chief that the omission be rectified, Prince Andrei galloped back. Kutuzov still stood in the same place and, his corpulent body sagging over the saddle in old man’s fashion, yawned deeply, closing his eyes. The troops were no longer moving, but stood at parade rest.

“Very good, very good,” he said to Prince Andrei and turned to a general who stood there with a watch in his hand, saying it was time to move on, because all the columns of the left flank had already descended.

“We still have time, Your Excellency,” Kutuzov said through a yawn. “We have time!” he repeated.

Just then, from well behind Kutuzov, came shouts of regimental greetings, and these voices began to approach quickly along the whole extended line of the advancing Russian columns. It was clear that the one being greeted was riding quickly. When the soldiers of the regiment Kutuzov was standing in front of began to shout, he rode slightly to one side and, wincing, turned to look. Down the road from Pratz galloped what looked like a squadron of varicolored horsemen. Two of them rode side by side at a great gallop ahead of the rest. One, in a black uniform with white plumes, rode a bobtailed chestnut horse, the other, in a white uniform, rode a black horse. These were the two emperors with their suite. Kutuzov, with the affectation of a frontline veteran, ordered his standing troops to “attention” and, saluting, rode up to the emperor. His whole figure and manner suddenly changed. He acquired the look of a subordinate, unthinking man. With affected deference, which obviously struck the emperor Alexander unpleasantly, he rode up and saluted him.

The unpleasant impression, like the remains of fog in a clear sky, passed over the emperor’s young and happy face and disappeared. He was somewhat thinner that day, after his illness, than on the field of Olmütz, where Bolkonsky had seen him for the first time abroad, but there was the same enchanting combination of majesty and mildness in his beautiful gray eyes, and the fine lips had the same possibility of various expressions, with a prevalent expression of good-natured, innocent youth.

At the Olmütz review he was more majestic; here he was more cheerful and energetic. He was slightly flushed after galloping two miles and, reining in his horse, gave a sigh of relief and looked around at the faces of his suite, as young, as animated as his own. Czartoryski and Novosiltsev, and Prince Volkonsky and Stroganov, and the others, all richly clad, cheerful young men on splendid, pampered, fresh, only slightly sweaty horses, talking and smiling, stopped behind the sovereign. The emperor Franz, a ruddy, long-faced young man, sat extremely straight on his handsome black stallion and looked around him with a preoccupied, unhurried air. He called up one of his white adjutants and asked something. “Most likely what time they started,” thought Prince Andrei, observing his old aquaintance, and recalling his audience with a smile he was unable to repress. In the emperors’ suite there were picked fine young orderly officers, Russian and Austrian, from the guards and infantry regiments. Among them were grooms leading the handsome spare horses of the royalty in embroidered cloths.

As fresh air from the fields suddenly breathes through an open window into a stuffy room, so youth, energy, and certainty of success breathed upon Kutuzov’s cheerless staff as these brilliant young men galloped up.

“Why don’t you begin, Mikhail Larionovich?” the emperor Alexander hurriedly addressed Kutuzov, at the same time glancing courteously at the emperor Franz.

“I am waiting, Your Majesty,” answered Kutuzov, inclining deferentially.

The emperor cupped his ear, frowning slightly and showing that he had not heard properly.

“I’m waiting, Your Majesty,” Kutuzov repeated (Prince Andrei noticed that Kutuzov’s upper lip twitched unnaturally as he said this “waiting”). “Not all the columns are assembled, Your Majesty.”

The sovereign heard, but this reply clearly did not please him; he shrugged his slightly stooping shoulders, glanced at Novosiltsev, who stood nearby, as if complaining of Kutuzov by this glance.

“We’re not on the Tsaritsyn Field,[5] Mikhail Larionovich, where you don’t start a parade until all the regiments are assembled,” said the sovereign, again glancing into the eyes of the emperor Franz, as though inviting him, if not to take part, at least to listen to what he was saying; but the emperor Franz went on looking around and did not listen.

“That is just why I do not begin, Sire,” Kutuzov said in a ringing voice, as if to forestall the possibility of not being heard, and again something twitched in his face. “I do not begin, Sire, because we are not on parade and not on the Tsaritsyn Field,” he uttered clearly and distinctly.

All the faces in the sovereign’s suite instantly exchanged glances with each other, expressing murmur and reproach. “Old as he may be, he should not, he simply should not speak that way,” these faces expressed.

The sovereign looked fixedly and attentively into Kutuzov’s eyes, waiting to see if he would say something more. But Kutuzov, for his part, bowed his head deferentially and also seemed to be waiting. The silence lasted for about a minute.

“However, if you order it, Your Majesty,” said Kutuzov, raising his head and again changing his tone to that of a dull, unthinking, but obedient general.

He touched up his horse and, calling to him the column leader Miloradovich, gave him the order to advance.

The troops stirred again, and two battalions of the Novgorodsky regiment and a battalion of the Apsheronsky regiment moved on past the sovereign.

While this Apsheronsky battalion was marching by, ruddy-faced Miloradovich, with no greatcoat, in his uniform tunic and decorations and a hat with enormous plumes, worn at an angle and brim first, galloped ahead hup-two, and with a dashing salute, reined in his horse before the sovereign.

“God be with you, General,” said the sovereign.

“Ma foi, sire, nous ferons ce que qui sera dans notre possibilité, sire!”[6] he replied merrily, nevertheless calling up mocking smiles among the gentlemen of the suite with his bad French.

Miloradovich turned his horse sharply and placed himself slightly behind the sovereign. The Apsherontsy, excited by the presence of the sovereign, marched past the emperors and their suite at a dashingly brisk pace, beating their feet.

“Lads!” cried Miloradovich in a loud, self-assured, and merry voice, obviously so excited by the sounds of gunfire, the anticipation of battle, and the sight of his gallant Apsherontsy–his companions from Suvorov’s time–marching briskly past the emperors, that he forgot the sovereign’s presence. “Lads, it won’t be the first village you’ve taken!” he shouted.

“We do our best, sir!” the soldiers shouted out.

The sovereign’s horse shied at the sudden shout. This horse, who had carried the sovereign at reviews while still in Russia, also carried her rider here, on the field of Austerlitz, enduring the distracted nudges of his left foot, pricked up her ears at the sound of gunshots just as she did on the Field of Mars, understanding neither the meaning of the shots she heard, nor the presence of the emperor Franz’s black stallion, nor anything of what her rider said, thought, or felt that day.

The sovereign turned with a smile to one of his retinue, pointing to the gallant Apsherontsy, and said something to him.

XVI

Kutuzov, accompanied by his adjutants, rode at a walk behind the carabineers.

Having gone less than half a mile at the tail of the column, he stopped by a solitary, deserted house (probably a former tavern), where the road forked. Both roads went down the hill, and troops were marching along both.

The fog began to lift, and enemy troops could be dimly seen about a mile and a half away on the heights opposite. To the left below, the gunfire was growing louder. Kutuzov stopped, talking with an Austrian general. Prince Andrei, standing slightly behind him, peered at the enemy and turned to an adjutant, wishing to borrow a field glass from him.

“Look, look,” said this adjutant, looking not at the distant troops, but down the hill in front of him. “It’s the French!”

The two generals and the adjutants began snatching at the field glass, pulling it away from each other. All their faces suddenly changed, and on all of them horror appeared. The French were supposed to be a mile and a half from us, and they suddenly turned up right in front of us.

“Is it the enemy? . . . No! . . . Yes, look, he’s . . . for certain . . . What is this?” voices said.

With his naked eye, Prince Andrei saw below, to the right, a dense column of French coming up to meet the Apsherontsy, no further than five hundred paces from where Kutuzov was standing.

“Here it is, the decisive moment has come! Now it’s my turn,” thought Prince Andrei, and, spurring his horse, he rode up to Kutuzov.

“The Apsherontsy must be stopped, Your Excellency!” he cried.

But at that same moment everything became covered with smoke, there was the sound of gunfire nearby, and a na-vely frightened voice two steps from Prince Andrei cried: “Well, brothers, that’s it for us!” And it was as if this voice was a command. At this voice everyone began to run.

Confused, ever increasing crowds came running back to the place where, five minutes before, the troops had marched past the emperors. Not only was it difficult to stop this crowd, but it was impossible not to yield and move back with it. Bolkonsky tried only not to be separated from Kutuzov and looked around in perplexity, unable to understand what was happening in front of him. Nesvitsky, looking angry, red, and not like himself, shouted to Kutuzov that if he did not leave at once, he would certainly be taken prisoner. Kutuzov stood in the same place and, without responding, took out his handkerchief. Blood was flowing from his cheek. Prince Andrei forced his way to him.

“Are you wounded?” he asked, barely able to control the trembling of his lower jaw.

“The wound isn’t here, it’s there!” said Kutuzov, pressing the handkerchief to his wounded cheek and pointing to the fleeing men.

“Stop them!” he cried, and at the same time, probably realizing that it was impossible to stop them, spurred his horse and rode to the right.

A fresh crowd of fleeing men streamed past, caught him up, and carried him backwards.

The troops were fleeing in such a dense crowd that, once one landed in the middle of it, it was difficult to get out. Someone shouted, “Keep going, don’t drag your feet!” Another, turning around, fired into the air; someone else struck the horse on which Kutuzov himself was riding. Extricating themselves with the greatest effort from the flow of the crowd to the left, Kutuzov and his suite, diminished by more than half, rode towards the sounds of nearby cannon fire. Extricating himself from the crowd of fleeing men, Prince Andrei, trying to keep up with Kutuzov, saw on the slope of the hill, amidst the smoke, a Russian battery still firing, and the French running up to it. Slightly higher stood Russian infantry, neither moving ahead to aid the battery, nor backwards in the direction of the fugitives. A general on horseback separated himself from the infantry and rode up to Kutuzov. There were only four men left in Kutuzov’s suite. They were all pale and exchanged glances silently.

“Stop those villains!” Kutuzov said breathlessly to the regimental commander, pointing to the fleeing men; but at the same moment, as if in punishment for those words, bullets, like a flock of birds, flew whistling at the regiment and Kutuzov’s suite.

The French had attacked the battery and, seeing Kutuzov, were shooting at him. With this volley, the regimental commander seized his leg; several soldiers fell, and an ensign holding a standard let it drop from his hands; the standard wavered and fell, stopped momentarily by the bayonets of the soldiers around it. The soldiers began firing without any orders.

“Oooh!” Kutuzov moaned with an expression of despair and looked around. “Bolkonsky,” he whispered in a voice trembling with awareness of his old man’s strengthlessness. “Bolkonsky,” he whispered, pointing to the disordered battalion and the enemy, “what’s going on?”

But before he finished saying it, Prince Andrei, feeling sobs of shame and anger rising in his throat, was already jumping off his horse and running towards the standard.

“Forward, lads!” he cried in a childishly shrill voice.

“Here it is!” thought Prince Andrei, seizing the staff of the standard and hearing with delight the whistle of bullets, evidently aimed precisely at him. Several soldiers fell.

“Hurrah!” cried Prince Andrei, barely able to hold up the heavy standard, and he ran forward with unquestioning assurance that the entire battalion would run after him.

And indeed he ran only a few steps alone. One soldier started out, another, and the whole battalion, with a shout of “Hurrah!” rushed forward and overtook him. A sergeant of the battalion ran up, took the standard that was wavering in Prince Andrei’s hands because of its weight, but was killed at once. Prince Andrei again seized the standard and, dragging it by the staff, ran with the battalion. Ahead of him he saw our artillerists, some of whom were fighting, while others abandoned the cannon and came running in his direction; he also saw French infantrymen, who had seized the artillery horses and were turning the cannon. Prince Andrei and his battalion were now twenty paces from the cannon. Above him he heard the unceasing whistle of bullets, and soldiers ceaselessly gasped and fell to right and left of him. But he did not look at them; he looked fixedly only at what was happening ahead of him–at the battery. He clearly saw the figure of a red-haired gunner, his shako knocked askew, pulling a swab from one side, while a French soldier pulled it towards him from the other side. Prince Andrei saw clearly the bewildered and at the same time angry expression on the faces of the two men, who evidently did not understand what they were doing.

“What are they doing?” Prince Andrei wondered, looking at them. “Why doesn’t the red-haired artillerist run away, since he has no weapon? Why doesn’t the Frenchman stab him? Before he runs away, the Frenchman will remember his musket and bayonet him.”

In fact, another Frenchman with his musket atilt ran up to the fighting men, and the lot of the red-haired artillerist, who still did not understand what awaited him and triumphantly pulled the swab from the French soldier’s hands, was about to be decided. But Prince Andrei did not see how it ended. It seemed to him as though one of the nearest soldiers, with the full swing of a stout stick, hit him on the head. It was slightly painful and above all unpleasant, because the pain distracted him and kept him from seeing what he had been looking at.

“What is it? am I falling? are my legs giving way under me?” he thought, and fell on his back. He opened his eyes, hoping to see how the fight between the French and the artillerists ended, and wishing to know whether or not the red-haired artillerist had been killed, whether the cannon had been taken or saved. But he did not see anything. There was nothing over him now except the sky–the lofty sky, not clear, but still immeasurably lofty, with gray clouds slowly creeping across it. “How quiet, calm, and solemn, not at all like when I was running,” thought Prince Andrei, “not like when we were running, shouting, and fighting; not at all like when the Frenchman and the artillerist, with angry and frightened faces, were pulling at the swab–it’s quite different the way the clouds creep across this lofty, infinite sky. How is it I haven’t seen this lofty sky before? And how happy I am that I’ve finally come to know it. Yes! everything is empty, everything is a deception, except this infinite sky. There is nothing, nothing except that. But there is not even that, there is nothing except silence, tranquillity. And thank God! . . .”

NOTES
[1] On 17 November 1796, fighting the Austrians in northern Italy, Napoleon, at the head of his grenadier and with a banner in this hand, charged onto the bridge at Arcole to keep the enemy from taking it. The plague that was raging in Jaffa when the French stormed the city afflicted both the local population and the French army. Napoleon visited the plague victims in the hospital with his marshals Berthier and Bessières, an incident commemorated by the French painter Jean-Antoine Gros (1771-1835) in The Plague Victims of Jaffa (1804).
[2] My dear . . . the old man’s in a foul humor.
[3] Go and see, my dear, if the third division has passed the village. Tell him to stop and wait for my orders.
[4] And ask him if the riflemen are posted . . . What they’re doing, what they’re doing!
[5] A square in Petersburg used as a parade ground. In 1818 the name was changed to Marsovo Polie (“the Field of Mars”).
[6] By my faith, Sire, we will do that what which will be within our possibility, Sire!

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

1. Richard Pevear suggests that, “The first thing a reader today must overcome is the notion of War and Peace as a classic, the greatest of novels, and the model of what a novel should be,” and focus on the immediate experience of reading it [p. x]. What is the experience of reading the first few chapters? What seems clear, and what is confusing? What do you think Tolstoy wants you to experience as the novel begins? 

2. Tolstoy distinguishes between characters who have integrity and those who operate more superficially and with greater self-interest in the social worlds of Petersburg and Moscow. What do Prince Vassily’s remarks reveal about him and the way he feels about his children [pp. 6–7]? What do the conversations at these two parties tell us about the main concerns of the Russian aristocracy? Why is Pierre a disturbing presence at the soirée of Annette Scherer and a welcome presence at the Rostovs’? What are the Rostovs like as a family?

3. Pierre was brought up abroad and has recently returned from Europe [pp. 9, 25]. We know very little about Pierre’s upbringing except that he is the illegitimate son of a wealthy courtier from the time of Catherine the Great, Count Bezukhov [p. 9]. Why do you think Tolstoy chose not to fill in any details of Pierre’s past? Why is his lack of familial ties and guidance an important element in Pierre’s life?

4. The deathbed of Count Bezukhov is the scene of an urgent struggle for a share of the dying man’s riches, with Anna Mikhailovna Drubetskoy and Prince Vassily as the main contenders. How does Pierre behave during these crucial scenes [pp. 76–87]? Why is he an easy target for those who seek to manipulate him for their own gains?

5. Prince Andrei admits to Pierre that he wants to go to the war because “this life I lead here, this life—is not for me!” [p. 25]. What does the scene between Andrei and his wife Lise reveal about him [pp. 25–28]? What does he demand of life? Why does he later ask Kutuzov to put him in a detachment of which only a tenth may return alive [p. 169], and how does he behave under fire?

6. Tolstoy describes the mental state of the men in the front line at Schöngraben: “Again, as on the Enns bridge, there was no one between the squadron and the enemy, and there lay between them, separating them, that same terrible line of the unknown and of fear, like the line separating the living from the dead. All the men sensed that line, and the question of whether they would or would not cross that line, and how they would cross it, troubled them” [p. 188]. He characterizes the actions of Tushin’s artillerists as “merry and animated” [p. 192]. Nikolai’s shifting thoughts are conveyed as he rushes into battle and is wounded [pp. 188–90]. What is Tolstoy like as a psychologist of men at war?

7. Prince Vassily has decided that his daughter Hélène should marry Pierre [pp. 201–214]. How does this come about for Pierre, who admits to himself that it is something which “was obviously not good and which he ought not to do” [p. 208]? He sees himself drawn into a “frightening abyss” [p. 209]. Is it purely sexual attraction that decides the question for him?

8. Tolstoy portrays the disastrous battle of Austerlitz on two levels: as a “world-historical” event and also as a series of devastating physical and psychological experiences for the individual people involved: “As in a clock the result of the complex movement of numberless wheels and pulleys is merely the slow and measured movement of the hands pointing to the time, so also the result of all the complex human movements of these hundred and sixty thousand Russians and French . . . was merely the loss of the battle of Austerlitz, the so-called battle of three emperors, that is, a slow movement of the worldhistorical hand on the clockface of human history” [p. 258]. With this metaphor in mind, think about how Tolstoy is intent on showing both vast and minute effects of this “mere” movement of history’s clock, particularly through the experience of Prince Andrei.

9. Looking for his moment of heroism, Andrei finds it at Austerlitz, where he is gravely wounded [p. 280]. Discuss how Tolstoy handles the description of these scenes in order to produce a sense of estrangement. What does Andrei realize as he looks up at the sky [p. 281]? How does Napoleon come across as he surveys the battlefield and comes across Andrei lying on the field, and what does Andrei think of Napoleon now [pp. 290–93]?Volume IINikolai Rostov returns home on leave with his friend Denisov to find his family’s financial affairs in disarray; Count Rostov gives a ball at which Dolokhov insults Pierre by openly referring to his intimacy with Hélène; Pierre wounds Dolokhov in a duel and separates from Hélène, leaving her a fortune and the house in Moscow. Pierre, seeking spiritual direction, joins the Masons. Prince Andrei meets and falls in love with Natasha; they are secretly engaged while Andrei goes to Europe and spends a year there at his father’s insistence. Natasha is seduced by Hélène’s brother, Anatole Kuragin, who arranges to elope with her from a house in Moscow. The plan is discovered. Andrei, embittered, returns Natasha’s letters and takes up residence at his country estate.

10. After the duel, Pierre asks himself why he had allowed himself to tell Hélène he loved her, why he married her. What is Pierre now seeking to do with his life? How successful is he in finding a sense of direction?

11. Prince Andrei, assumed dead by his family, arrives home only hours before his wife dies in childbirth. This is one of the most emotionally charged episodes in the novel. What are the memorable images, actions, or words spoken during these events [pp. 320–28]? With which details does Tolstoy most forcefully convey tenderness, grief, or remorse?

12. Listening to Natasha sing, her brother Nikolai finds that her voice “touched . . . something that was best in [his] soul. And that something was independent of anything in the world and higher than anything in the world” [p. 343]. What is this “something” that Natasha is able to express? Does Natasha also have this effect on Pierre and Andrei?

13. Pierre visits Andrei at his Bogucharovo estate, where they have an extensive conversation about God, life, and death. How do their positions differ? Andrei “saw that high, eternal sky he had seen as he lay on the battlefield, and something long asleep, something that was best in him, suddenly awakened joyful and young in his soul”; Andrei begins what “was in his inner world a new life” [p. 389]. What effect, if any, has Pierre had upon Andrei’s change of heart?

14. Nikolai Rostov, to ease his guilt over his gambling losses, resolves to “be a perfectly excellent comrade and officer, that is, a fine human being—which seemed so difficult in the world, but so possible in the regiment” [p. 396]. What is it about his character that makes him so contented as a military officer? Nikolai has been trying to intercede on Denisov’s behalf when he observes a meeting between the newly allied Napoleon and Czar Nicholas I. What effect do these events have upon him, and why [pp. 410–17]?

15. How is the bare oak that Andrei notices in the woods relevant to the scene in which he overhears Natasha as she leans from the window under the moonlight [pp. 419–23]? Tolstoy writes about Natasha at the ball, “She was in that highest degree of happiness when a person becomes perfectly kind and good, and does not believe in the possibility of evil, unhappiness, and grief ” [p. 462]. What qualities make Natasha an extraordinary character? What is her effect upon Andrei, and how does she make him think differently about his life [p. 467]?

16. Tolstoy presents a series of hunting scenes at the Rostovs’ Otradnoe reserve, followed by an evening of singing and dancing at their uncle’s house in his village [pp. 495–514]. Dancing a Russian dance with her uncle, Natasha is “able to understand everything that was in Anisya, and in Anisya’s father, and in her aunt, and in her mother, and in every Russian” [p. 512]. What do these scenes suggest about the essence of being Russian, for Tolstoy? Why is it important that the Rostovs, particularly Natasha and Nikolai, express this essential Russianness?

17. The engagement of Prince Andrei and Natasha goes on for a year during his absence: the delay is in deference to his father, who is against the marriage. Andrei’s absence causes anxiety and suffering for Natasha as well as her mother, who is fearful for her [p. 522]; the visit of Natasha and her father to the Bolkonsky’s house in Moscow is a disaster [pp. 554–57]. Why does Tolstoy make the marriage of Natasha and Andrei seem ill-fated? Are they not suited to each other?

18. Pierre feels lost after Natasha’s engagement, and finding himself again with Hélène as “the rich husband of an unfaithful wife” he wonders: “But I, what am I to do with myself?” [pp. 536–37]. Wrestling with “the tangled, terrible knot of life,” he says, “Nothing is either trivial or important, it’s all the same; only save yourself from it as best you can! Only not to see it, that dreadful it!” [p. 538]. What is it?

19. Several chapters are devoted to Anatole Karagin’s seduction of Natasha and its aftermath [pp. 557–600]. Natasha is first confused, then thinks herself in love, then is humiliated, then dangerously ill. Pierre comes to her defense [p. 593]; Andrei, proud and remote, releases Natasha from her engagement and returns her letters [p. 597]. It has been said that this episode of the novel is one of the most purely conventional: an innocent girl is seduced by a dissolute rake. Why might Tolstoy have included this twist in the story? What do you think of these events, and what do they contribute to your sense of the story and the characters involved?

20. What is the effect of the exchange between Natasha and Pierre that closes this volume [pp. 598–600] in which Pierre declares his love and devotion to her? Note that just as Volume I ended with Andrei looking up at the sky, Volume II ends with Pierre gazing up at “the huge, bright comet of the year 1812” [p. 600]. How does Pierre act upon the sense of “new life” that comes of these experiences?Volume IIIThe year is 1812. War resumes as Napoleon advances to the Russian border. Prince Andrei returns to service, refusing a position with the Czar in order to serve in the army, leading a regiment of chasseurs. After massive losses at Borodino, the Russian army retreats, leaving the French to take Moscow. Having decided to observe the battle, Pierre carries ammunition for an artillery battalion and sees masses of men slaughtered around him. He makes a vague plan to assassinate Napoleon and is taken prisoner. The Rostovs leave their home, emptying carts of their furniture to take wounded Russian soldiers to safety. Prince Andrei, again gravely wounded at Borodino, is among the soldiers brought to the Rostovs’ mansion in Moscow and is taken care of by Natasha.

21. As Volume III opens, Tolstoy expounds his view of the war of 1812, when Napoleon advanced upon Russia and occupied Moscow: “On the twelfth of June, the forces of western Europe crossed the borders of Russia, and war began—that is, an event took place contrary to human reason and to the whole of human nature” [p. 603]. Do you find Tolstoy’s view of this war convincing? What does he mean by “fatalism in history” [p. 605], and what role does human nature play in historical events? Consider how Prince Andrei’s experiences of accidental events in battle and the unpredictable actions of the enemy [p. 632] correspond with what Tolstoy has to say here.

22. Tolstoy presents Napoleon in a series of small scenes: he looks on at the Polish soldiers crossing the Niemen [pp. 607–12]; he is massaged and dressed by his valet and then presented with a portrait of his infant son just before the battle of Borodino [pp. 777–80]; he awaits the official surrender of the city of Moscow [pp. 873, 875]. How does Napoleon come across in these scenes? Why does the perspective on Napoleon become more negative as the novel proceeds?

23. Tolstoy introduces Part Two with a description of the events of 1812 that were to result in the destruction of Napoleon’s army. Why are these events ironic, for Tolstoy? Everyone acted as they did “as a result of their personal qualities, habits, conditions, and aims” [p. 682]. Is there a quality of absurdity in history, as Tolstoy sees it? What does he see as the truth about the battle of Borodino, as opposed to the way historians have recounted it [pp. 756, 783–85]?

24. Experiencing his life as “nothing but meaningless phenomena, without any connection with each other,” Andrei returns to military service. As the troops retreat from Smolensk, they pass near Andrei’s family estate, Bald Hills. What does Andrei’s way of seeing reveal about his state of mind [pp. 702–04]? Later, on the eve of the battle of Borodino, Andrei thinks of his past “in that cold, white daylight—the clear notion of death” [p. 769]. How does Andrei now think about his love for Natasha [pp. 770, 776–77]? Do such descriptions provoke your sympathy for Andrei as a romantic or doomed figure?

25. All her life, Princess Marya has suffered from her father’s manipulative and often cruel treatment of her. Yet she forgives him, telling Andrei, “Grief is sent by [God], not by people. People are His instruments, they’re not to blame” [p. 631]. Is Princess Marya a model character? What qualities does she represent? Why does she suffer from her own conscience, both before and after the old prince’s death [pp. 713–18, 729–30]? What effect does she have on Nikolai Rostov, who arrives in time to help her leave Bald Hills safely?

26. Kutuzov, the commander of the Russian forces, is the opposite of Napoleon in terms of his character as well as his strategic thinking. What are his personal qualities? What is the nature of Kutuzov’s wisdom, as Tolstoy sees it [pp. 738–45, 808]?

27. Tolstoy makes the reader experience the battle of Borodino by using the perceptions of the naïve Pierre as well as those of Prince Andrei [pp. 795–98, 808–12]. What is the effect of reading the description of Prince Andrei’s injury and his treatment in the field hospital where he witnesses the amputation of Anatole Kuragin’s leg [pp. 813–14]? What aspects of Tolstoy’s prose make these scenes feel so immediate and real?

28. Note how often Tolstoy includes details of Hélène’s body and dress in his descriptions of her, for instance: “Hélène was wearing a white dress, transparent on the shoulders and breast” [p. 835]; on Hélène “there was already a sort of varnish from all the thousands of gazes that had passed over her body . . .” [p. 460]. Does sexuality seem to be connected, for Tolstoy, with moral corruption? Why does Hélène convert to Roman Catholicism and ask Pierre for a divorce? What does Hélène die of [pp. 936, 939]?

29. The reconciliation of Natasha and Andrei [pp. 918–22], and their time together until his death, are among the most moving scenes in the novel. How does their time together change Natasha?

30. Pierre has convinced himself through numerological calculations that he, “l’russe Besuhof” is destined to assassinate Napoleon [pp. 665–66]. But on the way to carry out this task, he rescues a little girl from the flames of the burning city, saves an Armenian woman from looting soldiers, and is captured by the French [pp. 928–32]. What is comical, even farcical, about Pierre’s heroism, and what does the episode underscore about the way Pierre lives his life?Volume IV and EpiloguesNikolai meets Princess Marya again and realizes that he loves her; Pierre is among six prisoners sent for execution and is pardoned; he meets Platon Karataev, another prisoner marching with retreating French forces; Petya Rostov joins Denisov’s party in a raid on a French camp and is killed; Prince Andrei dies; French troops, now a starving and diminished band of looters and thieves, retreat west as winter sets in. The Rostovs return to Moscow where Count Rostov dies. Pierre and Natasha marry, as do Nikolai and Princess Marya; the two families live happily with their children in the countryside. The story of these characters ends with Epilogue I. The second epilogue is a long treatise on Tolstoy’s vision of history.

31. Nikolai, after helping Princess Marya to leave her home safely in the midst of invading French forces, finds that he is in love with her: “That pale, fine, sorrowful face, that luminous gaze, those quiet, graceful movements, and above all that deep and tender sorrow which showed in all her features, stirred him and called for his sympathy” [p. 955]. Why is Nikolai attracted to Marya’s spirituality, a quality he did not like in her brother? Seeing Marya at prayer, Nikolai prays for release from Sonya. What do you think of Sonya, and of her sacrifice of her own wishes, as she releases Nikolai from their long-standing engagement at the request of Countess Rostov? Are Marya and Nikolai better suited to each other?

32. Pierre is saved from execution by a pardon and realizes that “his faith in the world’s good order, in humanity’s and his own soul, and in God, was destroyed. Pierre had experienced this state before, but never with such force as now. . . . He felt that to return to faith in life was not in his power” [pp. 968–69]. Why is it significant that he meets Platon Karataev at this moment in his life [pp. 972–74]?

33. From the time he is wounded at Borodino, Andrei questions the meanings of life, death, and love: “Why was I so sorry to part with life? There was something in this life that I didn’t and still don’t understand . . .” [p. 812]. Later, Marya and Natasha feel his alienation from the world of the living [p. 978]. What is the significance of his dream of the door [pp. 984–85]? What is your response to Andrei’s death, which Tolstoy calls “an awakening from life” [pp. 985–86]?

34. Pierre undergoes a transformation while a prisoner of the French. He has long been a seeker of peace and contentment with himself: “he had sought it in philanthropy, in Masonry, in the distractions of social life, in wine, in a heroic deed of self-sacrifice, in romantic love for Natasha; he had sought it by way of thought, and all this seeking and trying had disappointed him” [p. 1012]. What does he learn during this period that finally brings him peace? How does the scene in which Pierre laughs to himself, looking up at the stars, show how far he has come [p. 1020]?

35. In one of his many historical discourses, Tolstoy likens the conflict between the French and the Russians to “two men who came with swords to fight a duel by all the rules of the art of fencing” until one, knowing that his life is at stake, picks up a club instead [p. 1032]. Why does Tolstoy enjoy this idea of Napoleon complaining that “the war was being conducted against all the rules” [pp. 1032–33]? What does Tolstoy find most interesting and admirable about the conduct of Kutuzov and the Russians?

36. What is the meaning of the tale Karataev tells Pierre when he himself is dying [pp. 1062–63]? How has Pierre’s sense of the relationship between God and life been changed by having known Karataev [p. 1064]?

37. Having to care for her mother upon the news of Petya’s death pulls Natasha out of her grief over Andrei: “She thought her life was over. But suddenly her love for her mother showed her that the essence of life—love—was still alive in her. Love awoke, and life awoke” [p. 1080]. How does this awakening prepare Natasha for the arrival of Pierre? Discuss the scene in which Pierre and Natasha meet again, when Pierre realizes “it was Natasha, and he loved her” [p. 1112].

38. Once married, Natasha focuses her energies solely on her husband and children: “In her face there was not, as formerly, that ceaselessly burning fire of animation that had constituted her charm. Now one often saw only her face and body, while her soul was not seen at all. One saw only a strong, beautiful, and fruitful female” [p. 1154]. Readers have understandably been disappointed by this seeming diminishment of Natasha’s vitality; Tolstoy explains that her family absorbed her “with her whole soul, with her whole being” [p. 1155]. Is this outcome to Natasha’s story disappointing? Why or why not?

39. Tolstoy’s early idea for this book was to write about a Decembrist on his return from Siberia in 1856 [pp. viii–ix]. The Decembrists were a group of young aristocrats and officers who, at the death of Alexander I in December 1825, rose up in the name of liberal reforms and constitutional monarchy, were arrested, and either executed or sent to Siberia. Hints remain of this plan as Epilogue I closes with Andrei’s son Nikolenka and Pierre looking towards the future. What is the effect of the shift in focus at the end, to Nikolenka and his dream of Pierre and his father, and of doing “something that even [Prince Andrei] would be pleased with” [pp. 1177–78]?GENERAL QUESTIONS

40. Richard Pevear writes about the unusual structure of this work, “War and Peace is a work of art, and if it succeeds, it cannot be in spite of its formal deficiencies, but only because Tolstoy created a new form that was adequate to his vision.” Tolstoy himself wrote, “It is not a novel, still less an epic poem, still less a historical chronicle. War and Peace is what the author wanted and was able to express, in the form in which it is expressed” [p. xi]. Does it matter that War and Peace is not the seamless fictional universe that novel readers expect? What is the effect of reading a book of this hybrid nature?

41. What are the human qualities that Tolstoy most highly values and which characters seem to exemplify them most fully? Which characters, and which forms of human behavior, particularly stir Tolstoy’s anger or contempt?

42. What answers does Tolstoy present, in the course of War and Peace, to the question, “How should I live my life?”

43. War and Peace has had an enormous influence on writers who came after Tolstoy. Read the three quotes below and discuss what, for Virginia Woolf, Isaiah Berlin, and Boris Pasternak, are the extraordinary aspects of Tolstoy’s vision. What, for you, are the things that make Tolstoy unlike other writers you’ve read?Virginia Woolf:“From his first words we can be sure of one thing at any rate—here is a man who sees what we see, who proceeds, too, as we are accustomed to proceed, not from the inside outwards, but from the outside inwards. . . . Nothing seems to escape him. Nothing glances off him unrecorded. . . . Even in a translation we feel that we have been set on a mountaintop and had a telescope put into our hands. Everything is astonishingly clear and absolutely sharp. Then, suddenly, just as we are exulting, breathing deep, feeling at once braced and purified, some detail—perhaps the head of a man—comes at us out of the picture in an alarming way, as if extruded by the very intensity of its life” (from her essay “The Russian Point of View” in The Common Reader).Isaiah Berlin:“No one has ever excelled Tolstoy in expressing the specific flavour, the exact quality of a feeling—the degree of its ‘oscillation’, the ebb and flow, the minute movements (which Turgenev mocked as a mere trick on his part)—the inner and outer texture and ‘feel’ of a look, a thought, a pang of sentiment, no less than of a specific situation, of an entire period, of the lives of individuals, families, communities, entire nations.” (from The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy’s View of History)Boris Pasternak:“All his life, at every moment, he possessed the faculty of seeing phenomena in the detached finality of each separate instant, in perfectly distinct outline, as we see only on rare occasions, in childhood, or on the crest of an all-renewing happiness, or in the triumph of a great spiritual victory.” (quoted in Pevear’s introduction, p. ix)

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 64 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(39)

4 Star

(7)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

(6)

1 Star

(7)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 65 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2010

    A landmark masterpiece brought to new life in a brilliantly re-thought translation.

    Translations of great works are usually a tricky business. One problem is that translations do not really age well. In works by Homer or Vergil, for instance, the originals remain fresh and timeless, but the translations soon come to seem stodgy or stuffy or worse -- what was truly great about the original can easily become obscured. So basically, the translations of the great works have to be recalibrated for each new generation. And even with that, not all translations are equally effective.

    This translation of War and Peace is a model of the translator's craft and art. They seem to have fully understood Tolstoy's goals and style.
    A long story, War and Peace does require a certain amount of commitment on the part of the reader. But this absorbing, erudite, clever and deeply human translation rewards the time dedicated to reading it. It is often said that War and Peace encompasses every possible emotion and experience that could be found in human life. Pevear and Volokhonsky have produced a translation that honors the original and makes it accesible to a larger audience than ever before. I have strongly requested a number of friends to read this book. They have all thanked me profusely and we have enjoyed many wonderful conversations about its contents.

    12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    So who am I to review War and Peace?

    Tolstoy's insight into human nature is unsurpassed. His philosophical meanderings mark the dawn of modernism. His characters are charming. His depiction of battle is utterly humane. His grasp of history and its implications is unerring. Just read it, you'll be glad you did. By the way, this translation is indeed lucid and approachable.

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 8, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Tolstoy's Literary Investigation

    This is Tolstoy at the height of his powers. This edition translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky is in its own right a masterpiece. I have read Constance Garnett's translation and this one is far superior. Their translations of Dostoevsky, Gogol, and Chekov are also some of the best translations of Russian works I have read. Tolstoy's War and Peace he did not consider a novel and I would agree. It does not have the elements of a novel and is more a meditative investigation of the time period, Russia, and history.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2009

    french in War and Peace

    just a note: Though at times it seems frustrating to read the translated French in footnotes, the dynamic between French and Russian is purposefully there. So, it becomes very helpful to know what characters regularly speak in French (and the general style of how it's used in the Russian aristocracy) when reading War and Peace.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 26, 2010

    I really like this translation

    As a proud new Nook owner (purchased after both of my sons came home within one week of each other with theirs), I wanted something serious to try it out on, so I went looking for a copy of War and Peace, which I had not read in many years. Being aware that there are usually several translations of a classic, I of course was looking for the one that I was familiar with, the old stand-by translation by Constance Garnett. As it was not obvious which edition on the last was that translation, I took advantage of the free sample available for this one, and I am very glad that I did. A few pages and I was hooked. I read the Section I of the first part in its entirety at one sitting.

    The decision was apparently made to leave the French portions intact, as the author had written them, showing how the upper class would normally slide in and out of both languages. It gives one a real feel for the way they talked. The translations of the French passages are at the back, but in the electronic version it is very easy to switch back and forth via the links provided. (I like to try to translate the passages on my own and then check to see if I did it right.)

    There is another entire set of notes on the historical references which are also invaluable.

    Tolstoy's incredible mind would shine through a merely competent or even a poor translation, I think; but this translation seems to me to have something a little extra: It seems to give one a feel for what it might be like to read him in the original Russian.

    Highly recommended.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 31, 2011

    Review of NOOK version

    DON'T buy the NOOK version of this book. I did. And I regretted it INSTANTLY. This book has TONS of footnotes that you have to read as you go along. However, in the NOOK version you can't easily access the footnotes as they are all at the back of the book rather than on the same page. I'm totally disappointed that I can't return this ebook (B&N has a no returns policy on ebooks). I'm going to have to buy the PAPER version of this book in order to read it.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2009

    a supreme work of art

    The novel has long been canonical. Pevear and Volkhonsky realize the poetry of Tolstoy's Russian to give non-Russian-readers a sense of how deserved is the novel's canonical status.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2007

    A reviewer

    I feel like a phillistine admitting that I have never been able to get through War & Peace. This translation of the russian is much better than previous ones, but it still has the problem of the french language used. To read the french translation, you have to go to the footnotes. Then you lose sense of who was talking going back and forth. Why could the translators not have translated the french in the main text? They translated it anyway. I finally gave up in frustration and regretted spending that much on the book.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2007

    Well Worth the Time

    Given War and Peace's reputation, it was a little intimidating to pick up. It starts out slow, but if you can stick with it, it is an amazing story and actually goes quite fast after you get to know the characters. My daughter and I had a bet on how long it would take to read. She thought 6 months. I was done in a month and a half just reading daily before bed. This is a classic for a reason. Everyone should read it once in their lives.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2009

    Great!

    This book is translated by the best Russian team ever. It's perfect!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2007

    The Master of the Novel

    I recently read War and Peace for the first time. The length of this 'loose baggy monster' as Henry James once described it always prevented me from tackling the famed novel. This was a mistake. Anyone who has read the equally great Anna Karenina can attest that Tolstoy grabs hold of the reader from the first and never fails to 'yes' entertain as well as provoke seemingly endless ideas about family, war, society, economics etc. This novel will haunt you from the first. Tolstoy's image making/evocation is unsurpassed. He will describe a place or person or thing or event, such as several notable battles and your mental image will crystalize with a clarity that is unmatched by other novelists. The shear ambition of this novel is stunning. Numerous characters who are all interesting, set pieces to fill many novels. Even when Tostoy's story is put on hold for essays on Napoleon or other subjects you will find yourself riveted. It seems strange to call this novel a page turner, but it is. It is a 'monster', a wildly entertaining ride through the heart and soul of Russia and in the end all of us. This may be the greatest novel ever. I know you hear that with other novels as well, however, this is one work that can make a claim to encompassing everything and all of us.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2011

    No excuses anymore to read a great book...

    If you've put off reading "War & Peace" due to its length and reputation, you have the chance with this new translation to redeem yourself. This translation is eminently readable and is a major step forward over previous translations, according to my book club friends. While the translation can do nothing about the formidable length, the time taken to cover that length is enjoyable, even intoxicating at times. If there are weaknesses, they are the common ones attributed to "War & Peace," the heavy reliance on French by the upper class Russians, especially in the beginning chapters (which was historically accurate) and the historical essays that initially provide an intriguing commentary on the battles with Napoleon but bring a stultifying conclusion to an otherwise brilliant work. By the way, my version was an e-book version, and while it was a relief not to have to lug the printed book with me on my train commute everyday, the historical and translation footnotes are all handled by hyperlinks which are tiring to access in an e-book with its primitive cursor placement. Still, highly recommended.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 13, 2010

    Pay for the Pevear translation- - this is not it

    Spend a few extra bucks and get the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation. This is a book I've read every few years since I was 11. 30 years later, it's more relevant than ever. Tolstoy is simply unequaled in his mastery of plot, characters and understanding what really matters. If you've never read it, read it! If it's been a few years, read it again!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    Great translation of a novel usually on the short list for greatest novel ever written

    There's something absurd about reviewing a novel nearly 150 years old which is one of the most famous and best regarded ever written.

    Let me just say that Tolstoy's genius is his ability to find his way into to the heads of some many different kinds of people -- from the young Natalia Rostov first falling in love to her brother Nikolai's iniital reaction to combat to the old general Bolkonsky moving increasingly into senility. The plot moves from battle scenes to ballrooms, and it is breathtaking that Tolstoy is equally at home as a writer. The man also had experience in both. *Count* Leo Tolstoy was a Russian aristocrat who was no stranger to the daily life of the aristocracy and also had served as a soldier in the siege of Sevastopol (about which he wrote Sevastopol Stories).

    I can't read Russian, but the translation is highly readable in English and a Russian lit professor I know -- also a native Russian speaker -- thinks that Pevear and Volokhonsky are very good.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 1, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    True work of art

    This book was incredible! The plot was completely engaging from start to finish. Tolstoy went to great lengths to research historical documents about the War of 1812 to create this work of historical fiction, and the result allows the reader to become immersed in a novel filled with both an intricate suspensful plotline and one which brings the war of 1812 and the culture of Russia during that time period to life. The recount of certain battles like the one at Borodino and the depiction of the French Army's invasion of Moscow and later on their retreat is rendered with great detail and although the novel is not a historical work, and even Tolstoy himself claims the novel is not even a 'novel', the images he creates give the reader a sense of closeness to the events that happened and what life was like in Russia during that time period. The story itself is captivating, with a multitude of characters and families that all become connected in some way. Scandal, romance, passion, treachery, this novel has it all up until the very end. Tolstoy at times injects his own viewpoints on the role of historians in society and the weaknesses inherent in their reasoning for why events happened the way they did. This dialogue can be tough to get through at times, but it was only a minor hindrance in the progression of the overall storyline. The length of the novel was appropriate given the amount of character development, plot details, and depictions of the war itself and its aftermath. Overall a true masterpiece, quite a pleasure to read this one. For those that cannot read the work in its original language, it is an absolute necessity to get the translation by Pevear and Volokhonsky, which translate it as faithfully as possible without abridging the french language passages scattered throughout the novel, and with an endless array of endnotes, summary, glossary of historical names, to keep the reader informed of the countless historical and cutural references within the novel. This novel is a Must-Read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Enjoyable; Never Boring

    Fantastic book. Don't be scared by the length. Tolstoy keeps you engaged. Reading it now for the second time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2012

    Reputations.

    I'm so glad I bought this book!! This is an amazing novel, and I highly recommend this novel to any avid reader! :D

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2012

    War and Peace

    Essential Classic...Excellent translation. Note: It is hard to see the * for French, Russian, or German after the sentence using the Nook. I read the first 100 pages without realizing that Volokhonsky had translated every sentence or phrase!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 1, 2012

    THIS IS NOT, REPEAT NOT, the Pevear / Volokhonsky translation!

    THIS IS NOT, REPEAT NOT, the Pevear / Volokhonsky translation! This is the Constance Garnet translation. Do NOT buy if you want the Pevear / Volokhonsky translation.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 65 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)