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Thread: "War and Society", NOT "War and Peace"

  1. #1

    "War and Society", NOT "War and Peace"

    Ladies and Gentlemen,
    Leo Tolstoy titled his novel as "War and Society", NOT "War and Peace"!
    When the Bolsheviks overthrew the Russia's Government in 1917, they decided to omit several letters from the Russian Alphabet as duplicate and unnecessary.
    That's why the word "MIPЪ" = SOCIETY ceased to exist. The dotted " i " and "yat'" disappeared from the scene. The closest word "МИР" = PEACE was used instead and the famous novel got it's new name - "WAR AND PEACE" instead of original "WAR AND SOCIETY".
    Something similar happened to Anton Chekhov's "CHERRY ORCHARD" (original title - "FADING ORCHARD") because the Bolsheviks omitted dotted " i " from the Russian alphabet and replaced it with modern " И ".
    And the word "FADING" has become "CHERRY".

    With deep respect to all
    those who still read books,


  2. #2
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    Yes, it really is "War and Peace"

    The Russian words for "peace" (pre-1918) and "world" (pre-1918) are homonyms and since the 1918 reforms have been spelled identically, which led to an urban legend saying that the original manuscript's title would be correctly translated as "War and the World".

    However, Tolstoy himself translated the title into French as "La guerre et la paix". The urban legend has been perhaps fuelled a Russian TV Quiz, which in 1982 presented as "correct" answer the "world" variant, based on a 1913 edition of "World and Peace" with a typo in the title.

    Tolstoy knew several languages, including English, and was often consulted by translators. If he truly meant the title to be "War and Society" he would have told his translators.
    Last edited by Jerry; 11-12-2005 at 11:35 AM. Reason: Russian characters did not appear correctly

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    Yay for Wikipedia.

  4. #4
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    Hi I am Russian and my mother is a Literature Professor who studied literarture most of her life, the Title in Russian "Voina i Mir" would translate into War and Society, the word Mir translates into Society, Brass Pounder is very correct with his explanation way to go. The title is very hard to explain but War and Peace should be titled War and Society

  5. #5

    Space Station Society?

    The Russian Space Station MIR was translated in the press as Space Station Peace maybe MIR now has a double meaning. The Russian Space Station Society? Well, maybe, considering the Russian Political System at the time.

  6. #6
    Fragmented Personalities Kafka's Avatar
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    I'm not Russian at all.

    But I find that the novel did not discuss much "peace" as extensively as it did on Society.

    So I guess if it is really "War and Society" then, it is much more applausible!

    Thanks for the info!

  7. #7
    It is possible that Tolstoy both wanted to call it "War and Society" in Russian, but for French and English translations he opted for "War and Peace" or "La guerre et la paix". In English the word peace implies something slightly different than it does in Russian.

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    I'd like to share some of my thoughts on this subject!

    I can't really find the right English word for the impressions of "Mir" that I have when reading the book. It is not of the "world peace" kind.
    The impressions of mir that I have is of the kind of idles of high classes of those time. A form of a lull and idling, rather then in peaceful and calm sense.
    If you look at how the Russians supposedly defeated Napoleon army... even that came out of a lot of confusion and idling that eventually gave Napoleon's army to implode.

    If one looks at some of the characters, one may find that a lot of them met their demise due to extreme forms of expressions of either the conflict (war, anger etc) or excessive lull. Psychological development of individual characters, and actions of group psychology in this book is amazing. Eh, amazing sounds like such an empty superlative here. I'm really at loss of words to describe Tolstoy's depth of understanding of various states of human psyche.

    Both, War and Peace in this book seem to have a multitude of underpinnings.
    There's anger, inner turmoil and conflicts, societal conflicts, national conflicts... some handled well, others taken to the extremes, and their consequences. On the peace side as well, there are examples of peace of mind, but also many consequences of peace, suppression (an outward appearance of peace and calm), and idle taken to extremes.

    Looking at possible meanings of War and Peace, I think Tolstoy has described just about each and every possible meaning of it, rather then just one, two or a handful of them.

  9. #9
    Ataraxia bazarov's Avatar
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    In Russian, Mir stands for peace and World. There is a famous sentence: Mir Miru; or peace to the world. Name War and World wouldn't be appropriate, what has world with this novel? War and Peace stands much much better!
    At thunder and tempest, At the world's coldheartedness,
    During times of heavy loss And when you're sad
    The greatest art on earth Is to seem uncomplicatedly gay.

    To get things clear, they have to firstly be very unclear. But if you get them too quickly, you probably got them wrong.
    If you need me urgent, send me a PM

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    It`s a well-known fact that Tolstoy himself translated the title into French as " La guerre et la PAIX ". If he meant his title to mean " War and Society ", he would have translated it as such. It would have made sense -- after all, he would be demonstrating the effect that war had on society, anyways. However, when choosing the meaning " peace ", he could broaden the subject matter. Perhaps by the meaning " peace " he meant the TIMES OF PEACE and its effect on society, or the importance of peace to the world, as opposed to the horrors of war. After all, he frequently juxtaposes the themes of death ( frequently caused by war ) and life ( flourishing during times of peace ). The title has that inherent polarity of philosophies or states of being frequently described in Tolstoy`s works, so in this respect it would make sense.

    Also, and perhaps it should be the main point, the two different meanings ( peace or society/world ) had two different spellings in Tolstoy`s time, and the spelling of the word chosen by Tolstoy actually meant " peace ".

    Perhaps the reason Tolstoy chose the title " War and Peace " was because the word " mir ", being a homonym, even if spelled differently, meant various things and so could suggest a variety of themes, ideas and thoughts that he wanted his novel to embrace.

    Besides meaning "society" or " world ", "mir" in Russian also means community, particularly as in a village community, but it can also refer to a nation or a whole world as a community. This "community" meaning of the word becomes particularly apparent when Kutuzov encourages his troops to be merciful to the starved French troops and when the Russian soldiers are depicted as being kind and understanding to captain Morel and his servant : a soldier says that they`re also human and that even weeds grow on familiar ground. This emphasizes Tolstoy`s understaning of the world ( Earth globe ) as a close-knit community of brothers.

    Also, as Bazarov has mentioned, during a church service, a deacon appeals to the congregation to pray to God as one community : to pray as one " mir ". Here he's referring to the Russian society as one community. Later the deacon says --- mir miru, which can easily be understood as " peace to the world " --- the whole world, including the French, expressing the double meaning of the word : " peace " and " society ", or world as the entire globe. Perhaps this pairing can re-interpret the meaning of " mir " in the title as " world/society/world community during times of peace.

    Overall, the word " mir " becomes almost a metaphor with its variety of meanings.
    Last edited by olichka; 04-30-2007 at 07:57 PM.

  11. #11
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    this is ridiculous, the title is War and Peace. This book was not written 2000 years ago in some obscure dialect open to varied translations. Although War and Society makes for an excellent title, this is not what Tolstoy chose. End of discussion.

  12. #12
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    I am very close to thinking what Adventure Man says. For one thing, the sound sequence "mir" with or without its hard sound ending is thousands of years old and every single Russian etymologist agrees it had acquired many meanings - the primary one of which is PEACE. That's why Vladimir is usually translated "Prince of Peace," with the secondary meaning "Prince of the World." Mir, in proto-Russian, clearly meant "peaceful land" and peace was equated with land - a constant theme of Tolstoi's work and an idea rooted deep in the Russian mind and consciousness.

    Having said that, all my in-laws are Russian. I live with a Russian. He speaks and writes in Russian better than anyone I know (he's a poet in Russian and English, he's a professor at a university, he and his entire family know Russian). They ALL translate it "War and Peace," as did his grandparents and great grand aunts - who lived in the same place and at the same as Tolstoi.

    The term "societe" in French is relatively new and didn't acquire the meanings it has in French OR in English until the 19th century. It's absurd to translate "mir" as "society," even though it can be used connotatively to evoke some of what we English speakers mean by society (although I can't think of a word for less there is LESS agreement in ordinary English).

    I'd challenge all those who want to use the word "society" in the title of War and Peace to give even a teensy plausible definition of the word - beyond its use as "society mavens," which is much closer to what would be connoted in this work. Tolstoi is going back and forth between the salons of Petersburg, showing the distant, "lower" levels of "society" in Moscow and then, how in war, all that happens in "society" still has relevance, while shifting in unexpected ways.

    That's NOT how we usually use the word in American English and while it is a possible use in British English, it wouldn't be the primary meaning.

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    I don't see why, to the last two posters, it couldn't be clearly obvious that the word "mir" could have a more pronounced reputation for meaning "peace" than it's other possible definitions, directly because of Tolstoy... and adventureman, in a discussion, which you claim to acknowledge this is, that's simply a cowardly entry you make.

  14. #14
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    Gentlemen, the title of the novel is "War and PEACE", and not "War and society" or "War and world", etc. Point is, before the liguistic reform of 1918 there were two absolutely different ways of writing these words: "myru" (WITH 4 LETTERS) for "peace", and "mir" (WITH 3 LETTERS) ("i" like English "i"!) for "society" and "world". ALL editions of [email protected] before 1918 (including those when Tolstoy was alive) were with the first variant of the word, that is with "peace".
    (I am Russian, I live in Moscow and I have read [email protected] 20 times, as well as many books and papers about Tolstoy).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adventure Man View Post
    this is ridiculous, the title is War and Peace. This book was not written 2000 years ago in some obscure dialect open to varied translations. Although War and Society makes for an excellent title, this is not what Tolstoy chose. End of discussion.
    Agreed. And really, in the end its only words. I'm amazed at how this discussion has only focused on "words". Surely the story is more important than the Title.

    Anyway, I came here hoping for some feedback about the story itself. Looks like I will just have to read it myself to find out.

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