Who read "War and Peace" and what did you see that made it a classic.

I have tried on more than a dozen times to read "War and Peace." Usually, I don't get much past page eight, the last time I got to page 15 and still didn't get it, except for the fact that the book describes the onset of Russia's war with Napoleon.

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Didn't mean to condescend.  Just wasn't chatty that day.  At my age, everyone should read what they wish.  I am finishing up a second reading of Faulkner's Light in August--WOW!  If we had assumed "to each his own" back in those days, we would not have made such monumental social progress in this country, so I guess I was wrong, again.  We are aware of the impending, change in social stratification in Tolstoy's works, I wonder if he could see it coming? I think he was exposing the tabu belief that everyone was not happy with the restrictions of the position and morality and rules into which one was born in the Russian world.  Interesting to contrast that with Napoleon's great contribution to Western culture--meritocracy.    

You must abolutely love, love, love words (and narrative) to enjoy Faulkner--and I really do.  Chuckled when I came across his use of "avatar" in the 1920s--keep m-w.com on the screen while reading WF. 

I personally think that War and Peace is one of those novels you say you have read in order to seem highly educated and intellectual. I agree with several have highlighted that it is boring and hard to read and would not get published today.


I no longer read books just because of the 'classic' title. The last book I read of that ilk was Dante's Divine Comedy. After struggling through that for 6 months I realised that I wasn't enjoying reading, but rather doing it our of some sort of snobbish literary idealism.


Reading should be enjoyable. So I'd ask, who enjoyed War and Peace, and why?



I think many who have replied have indicated they enjoyed it and told us why. If not for that, I wouldn't be hanging in there with it.


Another book I feel I must read again is "Moby Dick." I realized this when my opthomologist raved about the language. Although the next time I went to him, he indicated had not found time to finish it.


At least I won't struggle through a translation.


Jack Bludis


I think we all hear that argument. Someone has liked it, but if you aren't having that same enjoyment (i.e. battling to read it) then why continue? I'm not saying we'll all enjoy it for the same reasons, but I am saying that if you battle to get into it at all then it begs the question of why bother.


Also I've read two versions of Moby Dick. The first was an abridged version in a collection of adventure tales (I was 10 or something when I read it). About a year later I read the unabridged version. I enjoyed it and agree about the use of language. Something about breathing life into every aspect of the page. It also made it hard going.


Another example of great language use is The Picture of Dorian Gray. The exposition isn't just describing a scene, it is actually creating it, something modern 'wordy' authors would do well to understand.



Good poiints all, but why miss something just because it is difficult.


Thanks for the input on Moby Dick and Dorian Gray.



No problems Jack.


I agree that nothing worth doing in life is easy. I suppose I've just sworn off wasting my time after so many bad literary/classics that I've battled through.


Having said that I downloaded some Balzac the other day........

Here I go again. This time on a more positive note.


Because I have been reading it on Kindle, I am 23 percent through the book, which I think equates to about page 200 in the "Modern Library" edition I previously tried. The translation that I first bought for 99 cents was, if anytyhing, worse than the Modern Library version.


I still hung with it. Then someone on one of my mystery lists: Dorothy_L or 4_MysteryAddicts, suggested that I try the newest translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Price $15.99 for Kindle, $13.60 for paperback ... go figure.


I downloaded the sample from Kindle and after two pages, I was hooked. I made the investment. I had just reached the battlefield scenes, and when I bought the new translation I reread everything up until where I stopped on the horible 99 cent translation.


The translation shows what an true writer can do with the cold words of perhaps a literal translation. I am back into War and Peace, and I see what makes it great. My thanks to Timothy Hallinand who suggested that this ws the best translation. Timothy is the author of  "The Queen of Patpong" one of this year's Edgar finalists.


Now, I understand what all the fuss was about -- but how the hell did you who read the clunky editions even finish the damn thing.


 It may take until next summer to finish the thing, but I'm hanging in there while I read a lot of other things.


--Jack Bludis

Congratulations!  You are just so proud of yourself (and deservedly so)!  Great that you are finally enjoying the experience.

 I read the Louise and Aylmer Maude (Mrs. & Mr.) translation.  The text was illustrated by Fritz Eichenberg.  It is one of the selections from The Easton Press collection:  The 100 Greatest Books Ever Written.  As I have said before,  I just breezed through while riding my stationary exercise bike in the mornings.  We bought this collection one book at a time and managed  to amass about 50 books before the Internet came along.  The kids got their first computer when the oldest was 5 years old.  We also bought them a set of The Great Books along with an Encyclopedia Britannica.  They actually read a few of these before everything became digitized and available online or on CD.  I think having these pretty books around and treating them "special" helped teach them to respect books and reading and writing.  Their father believed they would need the EB to complete elementary school projects and reports at the last minute the night before due (as had he as a child.  He had no way of knowing I would be the world's first "Helicopter Mom" and would never let  the poor little ones settle for such mediocrity--though he is smarter than any of us).  

Anyway, hopefully, this is not the dreadful 99 cent edition with which you were struggling.  On the en verso of my book's Title Page, there is the following paragraph regarding the translation:  

The earliest Russian edition of War and Peace was published in separate

parts between 1865 and 1869.  The first English version appeared 

anonymously in London in 1886.  The novel occupied one or more 

volumes of the Works of Tolstoy as translated by Constance Garnett, 

1901-04, and Leo Weiner, 1904-1905.  The original version by Louise and 

Aylmer Maude was published in three volumes by Oxford University Press in 

1922-23.  the Maudes revised it for the six-volume edition (copyright 1938,

and 1966) issued by the George Macy Companies, Inc., New York, which in

1944 published the revised Maude translation in two volumes with illustrations

by Fritz Eichenberg and Vassily Verestchagin.  This Collector's Edition is 

published by advance reservation exclusively for subscribers to the Easton  

Press collection of The 100 Greatest Books Ever Written. . . .

Hope you finish soon and can begin Anna Karenina--extremely naughty, downright sexy, shocking (even alludes to latent homosexuality) and has an amazingly surprising plot twist and conclusion. (a classic Tragedy) You will have to tell me if you think that was the only (or at least the best) possible ending, given the societal expectations at  that time in that place.  My AK was translated by Constance Garnett, then "The Text edited and revised by Gustavus Spett and The translation revised by Bernard Guilbert Guerney."  The Garnett translation was "the first English translation--appearing in London in 1901. . . ."  No photos or illustrations or screen plays, etc.; but, I was absolutely drooling over the image of Anna's paramour.  I could exactly envision the appearance and sense the thrilling presence of the exciting, smooth, hunk!  But, don't worry:  I wouldn't say it is exclusively a "chick" novel. I went from Tolstoy to Faulkner's Light in August, which relates a much different, perverse society about 50 years later in a different place from a different history.  I doubt it was intended to be so in the first place, but I sure cannot find similarities in any of the two authors' characters--really from different planets!  

My son took an entire undergraduate semester course at UTexas (Austin) in War and Peace.  He bought a paperback edition.  He also took an undergraduate course covering the works of Nabokov.  I hope I remember to ask him next time we meet which author he enjoyed the most and if he could compare the two in any way.  These younguns see things so differently now.  For example, he found The Social Network (especially the ending) reminiscent  of Citizen Kane.  

Keep us posted with your progress and thoughts about W&P.  Have a great weekend! 

Oh, that's interesting and proves the difference a good translator makes. I read W&P in German os cannot comment.

Good for you, Jack!

Hmmm, Maybe my first few tries were with the German Edition. Unlike you, though, I'm at the "Kleine sprechen" level.


It would be interesting to see how they translate the names to German.



Since he was somewhat unkind about the German soldiers in the novel, I guess this means they didn't have much censorship in Germany. At least when I.J. read the book.

Is "Kleine sprechen" above "Kindergarten"?


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