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War and Peace


First published in 1869

Translated by friends and biographers of Tolstoy, Aylmer Maude (1858-1938) and Louise Maude (1855–1939)

Epic historical novel by Leo Tolstoy, originally published as Voyna i mir in 1865-69. This panoramic study of early 19th-century Russian society, noted for its mastery of realistic detail and variety of psychological analysis, is generally regarded as one of the world's greatest novels. War and Peace is primarily concerned with the histories of five aristocratic families--particularly the Bezukhovs, the Bolkonskys, and the Rostovs--the members of which are portrayed against a vivid background of Russian social life during the war against Napoleon (1805-14). The theme of war, however, is subordinate to the story of family existence, which involves Tolstoy's optimistic belief in the life-asserting pattern of human existence. The novel also sets forth a theory of history, concluding that there is a minimum of free choice; all is ruled by an inexorable historical determinism.

I read War and Peace as I travelled on the Trans-Siberian Express five years ago. Totally appropriate to read while passing through areas to which Moscow dissidents fled and who are mentioned by Tolstoy.--Submitted by Anonymous

It starts in beautiful Russia, with Anna. A maid. You will love the characters and everything about it. I am only a kid and I love it. It is unique and fun. It's really long, but it is worth it.--Submitted by book helper

War and peace set over two centuries ago is true to the human spirit in all our abstract and very human concerns. Centered around Russia's aristocracy during the Napoleonic wars, the epic tale travels through the heart of Russia in this most trying time. Its beauty however is in the contrasts of Tolstoy's themes that compliment rather than fight each other as the title itself confirms. A beautiful fusion of historical facts and novelty, of the endurance of man's highest qualities amidst suffering, the prevalence of societal concerns amidst war, the beauty of death amidst life, man's hungry search for meaning, the illusion of power amidst the greater forces that govern man, of love and the realism of life. It is no wonder that Tolstoy's work has not only endured the ages but has also risen above them. The thousand plus pages are unfelt but they simply move forth like a beautiful musical piece.--Submitted by Chiedza

A classic novel by Tolstoy. This book talks mostly about the Napoleonic Wars and the rise of Russian spirit. This books drives a person to think about how the situations were in Russia during the invasion of Napoleon over Europe.--Submitted by Anonymous

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Recent Forum Posts on War and Peace

Best way to read War and Peace?

I just finished Don Quixote and I am currently reading Les MisÚrables. I bought those books along with War and Peace to read one after the other, shortest first. My question is, what is the best and most rewarding way to read War and Peace? I only ask this due to the large cast of characters and historical refrences (I only have a basic understanding of the Napoleonic wars). Should I use a study guide, chapter by chapter summary etc etc. Also what would be the best reading schedule that will allow me to finish the book in 2-3 months (my copy is 1444 pages)? Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!

War and Peace: The Sequel

Having just finished War and Peace last week, I am now champing at the bit for information on the continuation of the story. I've scoured the internet, as I am sure many of you on this forum have. I found an intriguing piece from 1996 on an actual sequel written in Russia. It follows the theme of Tolstoy's original concept, "The Decembrists", but apparently with a modern predilection for steaminess. It's called "Pierre and Natasha", authored anonymously, and presumably unavailable to English-reading audiences. Please read the article at the attached link, and let me know if any of you have any clues as to how to get this book.

Natasha and the "dirty diaper"?

The great courses lecture on War and Peace talks about its ending with Natasha coming in with a dirty diaper. ("Classics of Russian Literature" , taught by Irwin Weil from the teaching company) None of the translations I have seem to contain that. . . WHERE IS IT? D Provine

The Second Epilogue

I've re-read War and Peace in just over a month. Wonderful it is indeed until I come to the Second Epilogue, with Count Lev going round and round in circles about a Philosophy of History. He seems to be saying that any existing philosophy of history is wrong. Frankly, I couldn't care. These turgid self-indulgent pages by someone who was no doubt a good, imaginative and humane man are something I find terminally boring.

Is Lise Bolskonski pregnant for 18 months?!

Hello, I've recently started reading War & Peace. Not finished yet, so I don't want to read through the topics in case it spoils,y reading. So apologies if it's been mentioned already :) A Google search brought me here regarding Natasha's age, which I believe is linked to the problem I noticed. Lise is pregnant when Prince Andrew leaves for war. She is described as "waddling" so I'm assuming she is already quite far along. Anyway, when the war is over, Tolstoy says Nicholas Rostov has been away for 18 months, so I'm assuming it was the same for Prince Andrew more or less, given that he was also missing. So he comes home and his wife is giving birth... 18 months after he left?! Is it a mistake in the book or something I misunderstood? Thanks :)

Finally starting War and Peace films/book project

Nearly two years after announcing my intent, I'm finally having a go at War and Peace. To sum up, I'm first watching three filmed versions in order of increasing length: The 1956 American/Italian version (3 1/2 hours), the classic 1966-67 four-part Russian version (7 hours), and the 20-part BBC-TV serial from 1972-73 (15 hours). I'm hoping this three-stage introduction will help me remember who is who and doing what during the actual read without constantly having to stop and look people up. First, the 1956 version, starring noted Russian actors Henry Fonda, Audrey Hepburn, and Mel Ferrer. I joke, but looking up the main cast in IMDB, I see American, English, Dutch, Italian, Czech, Austrian, and Swedish, but no Russian. Scanning the secondary cast listing, I finally find a Russian-sounding name: Dimitri Konstantinov, with the promising credit "Young Officer at Orgy" (though this being a 1950s major studio release, and PG-rated to boot, I probably shouldn't get my hopes up). Further down, I find one more: Savo Raskovitch as Czar Alexander I. That looks to be about it for authenticity, though. From what I've read, this version seems to be the runt of the litter, especially when compared to the revered Russian version. Since I'm going into this with no preconceptions, and minimal knowledge of the original story (I only know it involves a love triangle between two men named Pierre and Andrei and a woman named Natasha, with Napoleon's invasion as a backdrop), let's see how this movie works on its own merits. *time jump* Having watched the film in three parts over the last three days, I can say that this may be the most un-epic epic I've ever seen. Most of the cast emoted professionally enough but it was all very stage-actey and artificial (though Herbert Lom as Napoleon was a definite win). This seemed to be a deliberate style decision, but it resulted in none of the characters feeling real, so I was never able to get really involved. There was also little sense of forward propulsion in the story, just coasting and looking at people doing their thing. I never felt any kind of build toward a climax. And the love triangle itself wasn't even much of one, since not much time was spent on the main three characters together. I can't say how much of the lack of life was due to trims to the source material, but that shouldn't be an excuse anyway; Gone with the Wind was a pretty huge novel, and that movie still beats this one in pretty much every way. Just compare the scenes in the two movies involving the heroines dealing with the wounded. My rating on this one: 6/10 Still, it did its job. Now I know the main characters and the basic story. Next up: The Russians liked this movie but thought they could do better. I hope so.

War and Peace: The Movie(1956) and the Novel

WAR AND PEACE: Leo Tolstoy and Me stoy Part 1: The 1956 release of War and Peace was the first English-language film version of the novel War and Peace by the Russian novelist and short-story writer, essayist and playwright Leo Tolstoy(1828-1910). This 1956 film was released into cinemas when I was 12, in grade 7, and responsible for the marquee at the Roxy Theatre in Burlington Ontario. I got into all the films that came into town---free---at least while I had that part-time job in my senior years of primary school. I don’t remember ever seeing War and Peace until it was televised this afternoon.(1) War and Peace won many awards; I leave it to readers here to find out which ones. I also leave it to readers to take-in, if their interests allow, the available summaries and analyses of both the novel and of the film, of Tolstoy’s life and of any other relevant Russian literary life and history that is of interest to them.-Ron Price with thanks to (1)ABC1 TV, 12:00-3:25 p.m., 22/12/’12. As a student and, then, teacher of English literature from the 1950s to the first years of the 21st century, I was blest with never having to either read this work or teach it as part of the curriculum. The book is one of the longest novels ever written, and one of the most famous---arguably---the most famous. I will also leave the reading of that novel to readers at some time in their lives as the internet publishing world, and the many publishing houses around the planet, pile on their reading matter for 21st century students and readers. As we all run-the-gauntlet of the print and image glut that faces us in this new and troubled age, Tolstoy requires hard yards for the KISS generations, the keep-it-simple-silly literary language of our times. Part 2: Tolstoy began his tertiary studies at the age of 16 in law and oriental languages at Kazan University. The year was 1844, the same year that Karl Marx published his first writings, and the year that the first message: "what hath God wrought?" went across a telegraph wire. Tolstoy was described by his teachers as "both unable and unwilling to learn". I won’t give you chapter and verse of this man’s fascinating life for that, too, you can read about at your leisure, if you have the interest. I will note here, though, one fact of interest to me, if not to you, about the dissolute university student who was Tolstoy and who, by his 40s, had transformed himself into a number of roles for which he acquired in the decades ahead---fame and renown. One of these roles was as an educator whose school, whose learning system, was a direct forerunner to A. S. Neill's Summerhill School, a man, a school, and an educational system which I will also leave to readers to google at their leisure this summer. If readers of this prose-poem of mine here at this Literature Network Forum live in the northern hemisphere, then, they can do their googling during this winter holiday. The school Tolstoy founded in his 40s can justifiably be claimed to be the first example of a coherent theory of democratic education.-Ron Price with thanks to Wikipedia, 22/12/’12. It helped having Audrey Hepburn and Henry Fonda in starring roles, but I’m glad I never had to either read or teach this immense, great, pastiche of a book, the 7th longest, as far as I know.…Working on it as(1) he was when Darwin’s Origin of the Species hit the public in 1859…... I’ve been working on this book for nearly 50 years; had it on my to-do list, but I’ve got lost in the world of print and image-glut. I’ve put novels down on the back-burner in a lesser category as far back as the 1950s, a half-century-of-life or more-ago, ago. You said, Leo, that there was a man in Akka who had found the key to it all.(2) I came across this idea over 50 years ago at the same time as a friend was reading your writing...immersed as I was in history and philosophy.....To read your War & Peace was impossible for me then and now, given my long reading lists then, my proclivities now, and the fact that these evenings of my life are coming at me faster than the speed of light, as I head into the last hours of my life-night before...dawn. (1) Tolstoy himself, somewhat enigmatically, said of War and Peace that it was "not a novel, even less is it a poem, and still less a historical chronicle”. He went on to elaborate that “the best Russian literature does not conform to standard norms” and, hence, he hesitated to call War and Peace a novel. The book is actually the seventh longest novel ever written in a Latin or Cyrillic-based alphabet. It is subdivided into four books or volumes, each with sub-parts containing many chapters. See War and Peace at Wikipedia. (2) See Leo Tolstoy and the Baha’i Faith, Luigi Stendardo, translated form the French by Jeremy Fox, George Ronald, Oxford, 1985, p.53. Ron Price 22/12/’12 (final draft)

Did Pierre Cheat on Natasha?

In the first epilogue, Pierre and Natasha discuss their former quarrels after Pierre returns from Petersburg. Pierre says he loves Natasha and even if they're at odds when they part, he develops a lot of love for her after they've been parted for a while. This makes Natasha a little queasy, and Pierre says, "No, I never stopped loving you, it's not that..." He doesn't finish the sentence. Natasha says their quarrels are silly and when Pierre mentions jealousy, she shuts him up, afraid to open a new can of worms. After a moment of silence, she asks him, "Did you see her?" Pierre says no. Does this interaction imply that Pierre cheated on Natasha at one point in their marriage or is my reading incorrect? I've searched Wikipedia, Sparknotes, and Cliffnotes, but to no avail :(

A Novice and "War and Peace"

I'm about to begin War and Peace (Tolstoy of course) and having only read a dozen or so of his short stories, I got the bright idea I would consult you bright folks for tips. I've heard people keeping notebooks to track characters, things like that. Anything that might be helpful is welcome indeed. Thanks in advance.

Russians Speaking French?

I'm reading a newer translation of War and Peace, one that claims to be truer to the original than the standard Maude translation (I don't know if it is; I don't read Russian), and one of the ways in which it does this is keep the original French text. While I'm reading, I keep wondering why the Russians speak so much French, when they're fighting the French. Even the emperor speaks French. What's the deal with that?

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Leo Tolstoy

    Book One: 1805

    Book Two: 1805

    Book Three: 1805

    Book Four: 1806

    Book Five: 1806-07

    Book Six: 1808-10

    Book Seven: 1810-11

    Book Eight: 1811-12

    Book Nine: 1812

    Book Ten: 1812

    Book Eleven: 1812

    Book Twelve: 1812

    Book Thirteen: 1812

    Book Fourteen: 1812

    Book Fifteen: 1812-13

    First Epilogue: 1813-20

    Second Epilogue: 1813-20

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