Tolstoy's War and Peace

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Tolstoy's War and Peace

Post  pinhedz on Tue Apr 12, 2011 1:24 am

Has Twood finished it?

How far did he get?

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Re: Tolstoy's War and Peace

Post  ISN on Tue Apr 12, 2011 2:09 am

he hasn't showed up yet......I'm sure he'll show up soon......

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Re: Tolstoy's War and Peace

Post  Constance on Tue Apr 12, 2011 2:52 am

I half-read it a long time ago. I read the Peace parts and skipped the War parts.

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Re: Tolstoy's War and Peace

Post  Nah Ville Sky Chick on Tue Apr 12, 2011 5:26 am

pinhedz wrote:Has Twood finished it?

How far did he get?

Last time I asked, no, he hadn't.

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Re: Tolstoy's War and Peace

Post  Doc Watson on Tue Apr 12, 2011 5:01 pm

Best summing up of "War And Peace " I ever read was Napoleon went to Russia to fight a war and lost.
By the way I did readthe whole novel a few years ago.


Last edited by Doc Watson on Wed Apr 13, 2011 10:28 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Tolstoy's War and Peace

Post  eddie on Tue Apr 12, 2011 6:18 pm

Constance wrote:I read the Peace parts and skipped the War parts.

Pretty much the reverse applies with me, Constance.

Tolstoy's account of the bloody battle of Borodino is one of the great military set-pieces in literature.

I remember you slogging painfully through John Keegan's "A History of Warfare" at my suggestion- and hating it. I also seem to recall your valiant attempt to tackle Elizabeth Longford's massive 2-volume biography of Wellington, too- much much the same result.

Eh bien, chacun a son gout. sunny


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Re: Tolstoy's War and Peace

Post  Constance on Tue Apr 12, 2011 11:37 pm

eddie wrote:
Constance wrote:I read the Peace parts and skipped the War parts.

Pretty much the reverse applies with me, Constance.

Tolstoy's account of the bloody battle of Borodino is one of the great military set-pieces in literature.

I remember you slogging painfully through John Keegan's "A History of Warfare" at my suggestion- and hating it. I also seem to recall your valiant attempt to tackle Elizabeth Longford's massive 2-volume biography of Wellington, too- much much the same result.

Eh bien, chacun a son gout. sunny


Maybe I'll read it again and read the whole thing.

I learned a lot from the Keegan book, but the Wellington was too much for me!

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Re: Tolstoy's War and Peace

Post  eddie on Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:27 am

Paperback Q&A: Rosamund Bartlett on Tolstoy

The biographer talks about the challenges of taking on the 'gargantuan life' of a writer much of whose work remains completely unknown to English readers

guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 6 December 2011 12.59 GMT


Rosamund Bartlett: 'The word ”Tolstoy” somehow came out of my mouth, making a completely mad idea a reality'

How did you come to write Tolstoy?


Tolstoy: A Russian Life
by Rosamund Bartlett

When my agent asked what the next book might be after I finished a biography of Chekhov, the word "Tolstoy" somehow came out of my mouth, making a completely mad idea a reality. On a simple level I wanted to understand why Chekhov so revered Tolstoy as a human being, and I also felt that with the approaching centenary of Tolstoy's death, this was the right time to try and reanimate that part of his life which had been petrified by the Soviet literary establishment. Glasnost heralded the return of Tolstoy the religious thinker, as well as the publication of many fascinating materials which shed new light on the pivotal role he played in Russian society on the eve of the 1917 revolution.


What was most difficult about it?

Making sense of such a gargantuan life. Tolstoy not only bequeathed to the world some of the greatest novels ever written, but also a huge and much less well-known spiritual and philosophical legacy to which he attached far greater importance than all his fictional work. The standard edition of Tolstoy's writings runs to 90 volumes, while the new post-Soviet edition will add a further 10 if it is ever completed (not a foregone conclusion in today's Russia). I wanted there to be a narrative thread to my biography, and in the end I took a leaf out of Tolstoy's book and had each chapter tell the story of one or more of his many (to my mind) archetypically Russian lives. The other main challenge was stepping outside the well-worn furrows of the orthodox story of Tolstoy's life, which were ploughed by the author himself, as well as his faithful acolytes.


What did you most enjoy?

Apart from the feeling of finally beginning to understand Tolstoy's complex spiritual journey and its relationship to Russian religious life, I found it very moving to read about his dedication to popular education. There was next to no schooling in the middle of the 19th century for the peasantry (most of whom were still illiterate after the revolution), and Tolstoy incurred the wrath of his reactionary landowner neighbours by opening schools and instilling in young peasant children a love of reading and writing. Also very touching is the care with which Tolstoy put together his ABC book, which combines his beautifully written little tales and stories about scientific phenomena with extracts from the lives of the saints and legends about bogatyrs (Russia's mythical medieval warriors).


How long did it take?

About three years of research and thinking, on the back of several decades of studying Russian cultural history, which culminated in an extremely intense year-and-a-half of writing.


What has changed for you since it was first published?

I've been glad to get out of doors, and be able to play and listen to music again. And it's good that people are now beginning to take the later Tolstoy more seriously, and not just see him as the author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina. A lot of his preoccupations, after all, were remarkably prescient. He began speaking out against violence, poverty and the late 19th-century equivalent of corporate greed in the early 1880s and was still campaigning vociferously at the time of his death 30 years later.


Who's your favourite writer?

Chekhov.


What are your other inspirations?

Apart from deadlines, the passionate, whole-hearted commitment of Russian artists like David Oistrakh and Sviatoslav Richter; the beauty of so much of Russia's precious and hard-won cultural legacy (and the tremendous pleasure received from opportunities to share it with a wider audience); the humble, elegiac qualities of the Russian landscape, the Russian language, and the openness and extraordinary generosity of spirit of the many Russians who have become my friends.


Give us a writing tip.

I've personally learned a great deal from concurrently translating the prose of the two great writers whose biographies I have written. I found myself becoming punctilious about punctuation while writing about Chekhov's life, for example, and aspiring towards ever greater economy. Translating Tolstoy has had the opposite effect, as exemplified in my response to this request, which can best be answered in two words: read more.


What, if anything, would you do differently if you were starting the book again?

Everything probably! You can't help but have a different view of your subject when you have finished writing a book, and I would hope to reveal other dimensions if I was tackling Tolstoy's life again. It's humbling to consider his interest and inexhaustible energy, even at the end of his life, in exploring new things, from the motor car to the Bahá'í Faith, but encompassing it all in one biography would make for an indigestible read.


What are you working on now?

A new translation of Anna Karenina for Oxford World's Classics, and my next book, which will be a cultural history of opera in Russia.

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Re: Tolstoy's War and Peace

Post  eddie on Sat Dec 10, 2011 10:20 pm

Winter reads: Master and Man by Leo Tolstoy

The lethal cold is clearly freighted with symbolism in this wintry parable, but it is realised with tangible bite

Chris Power

guardian.co.uk, Friday 9 December 2011 11.33 GMT


A horse-drawn sleigh in Siberia. Photograph: Yury Yuriev/AFP/Getty Images

When winter starts to bite the story I think of is Tolstoy's "Master and Man" (1895). Winter cold is integral to this sophisticated parable on a concrete and spiritual level. It is an evocative tour de force: snow and biting winds gust from its pages. Its climactic event, the transferral of heat from one body to another, has a primal resonance.


The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories
by Leo Tolstoy

Vasily Andreich Brekhunov is a rich merchant focused solely on becoming richer. On a dark afternoon the day after the feast of St Nicholas, despite the threat of a storm, he sets out to secure the purchase of a wood at a bargain price. He takes his "kind, pleasant" servant Nikita with him, a man Brekhunov values but callously exploits. He pays him half what he should, and then "mostly not in money but in high-priced goods from [his] shop."

"Master and Man" is a story about the passage from life to death, one of Tolstoy's abiding concerns from "Three Deaths" (1859) onwards. It is strewn with symbols. Wasting no time in developing the tension that throbs away throughout the story, immediately as Brekhunov and Nikita leave the village of Kresty ("The Crosses") Tolstoy sets about dismantling the barrier between this world and the next:

"As soon as they passed the last [building], they noticed at once that the wind was much stronger than they had thought. The road could hardly be seen...The fields were all in a whirl, and the limit where sky and earth met could not be seen."

Nikita drowses and they become lost, riding across bleak fields "with clumps of wormwood and straw sticking up from under the snow." They come to the village of Grishkino, receive directions and set off again. The snowstorm has intensified. Again Nikita drowses, again they get lost in "the slanting net of wind-driven snow". Night is falling. They travel in a circle. They come again to Grishkino.

This time they seek shelter at a wealthy household in the village. The contrast Tolstoy creates between the cold loneliness of the wilderness and the cosy warmth of human habitation is highly effective. Nikita, icicles melting from his beard, drinks "glass after glass" of tea and feels "warmer and warmer, pleasanter and pleasanter". But Brekhunov, considerably better dressed for the weather than his servant, insists they resume their journey.

They get lost a third time, in darkness this time, and the horse Mukhorty is too tired to carry on. Nikita prepares for a night outdoors, with Brekhunov in the sleigh and himself in a straw-lined hollow. Brekhunov smokes ("always a bad sign in Tolstoy", as Hugh McLean points out) and thinks about "the sole aim, meaning, joy, and pride of his life – of how much money he had made and might still make". But these thoughts peter out into the "whistling of the wind, the fluttering and snapping of the kerchief in the shafts, and the lashing of the falling snow against the bast of the sleigh."

Over five masterful pages Tolstoy tracks Brekhunov's shift from discomfort and irritation to panic. He decides to take Mukhorty and abandon Nikita – "'it's all the same if he dies. What kind of life has he got!'" – who is losing his toes to frostbite, and realises he is probably going to die. "This thought did not seem especially unpleasant to him, because his whole life was not a continuous feast, but, on the contrary, a ceaseless servitude, which was beginning to weary him."

On a floundering Mukhorty, Brekhunov travels in smaller circles across a hostile, almost alien landscape, coming twice to a clump of wormwood – "growing on a boundary … desperately tossing about under the pressure of the wind" – that appears to mark the grim border of existence. He "sees he is perishing in the middle of this dreadful snowy waste" and realises he has returned to the sleigh. Then, wonderfully, he busies himself by scraping the snow from Nikita and lying on top of him. In the morning Nikita is alive and Brekhunov is dead, frozen as if crucified, "his open mouth...packed with snow."

There is something thrilling, regardless of creed, about Brekhunov's unlikely transformation from exploiter to saviour, which Tolstoy uses a kind of stream of consciousness to outline but not precisely describe. Brekhunov's thought that "'Nikita's alive, which means I'm alive, too,'" could be Buddhist, or humanist, although the deep vein of symbolism running through the story is unmistakably Christian. As Elizabeth Trahan pointed out in a 1963 essay, the number three features 15 times in the story; the gatekeeper of the house in Grishkino is called Petrukha (Peter); on the road they pass a Semka (Simon); there are 13 people seated around the table at what turns out to be Brekhunov's last supper. There are several more examples, but the most insistently repeated symbol is that of the circle. As Trahan notes, it is "menace and trap, futility and despair, but it also represents the unity of life and death, the Chain of Being. The snow whirls around master and man, the wind circles around them, their road turns into circles."

"Master and Man" is a painstakingly crafted parable that stays vital despite its heavy symbolism, and whose characters do more than merely represent virtue and avarice. Nikita is kind and pleasant, but he's also a drunk who chopped up his wife's most treasured clothes. Brekhunov is odious but sees himself as a "benefactor". They are trapped in a hostile limbo between this world and the next, and they are 200 metres off the road in a snowstorm. Binding all this together, and making it a masterpiece, is complex prose that has the apparent simplicity of bare trees in a field of snow.

• All quotations are taken from Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's translation of "Master and Man".

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Re: Tolstoy's War and Peace

Post  eddie on Sun Apr 22, 2012 6:25 pm

AN Wilson: 'Everyone writes in Tolstoy's shadow'

The prolific author on the mystique of Tolstoy, his spat with Richard Evans and the limitations of the Kindle

Interview by William Skidelsky

The Observer, Sunday 22 April 2012


AN Wilson: 'I’m like Jane Austen – I work on the corner of the dining table.' Photograph: Murdo Macleod

AN Wilson – biographer, historian, novelist, columnist, provocateur – is the author of more than 40 books, including, most recently, Hitler: A Short Biography. His 1998 biography of Tolstoy, which won the Whitbread prize, is now being reissued.


Tolstoy
by A. N. Wilson

You wrote recently that you used to regard Tolstoy as a mystery but he now makes sense. What did you mean?

I was perhaps a little bit too inclined to think of a great conversion in the middle of his life. But when you go back and read the stuff he wrote as a soldier, and the war passages in War and Peace, it's clear he's moving towards the position of pacifism and hatred of war that dominated the second half of his life. Similarly, in War and Peace, the emphasis on peasant wisdom and the vacuity of the upper classes in Russia, it's all there.


How would you sum up his writing?

The word that leads you in is realism. When I was writing this book, Anthony Powell said to me: "Why do you want to waste your time writing about him, his books are just cinema?" I know what he means, particularly if you turn to Dostoevsky, and there's all that agitation and innerness, as if you're inside people's heads. Whereas with Tolstoy it's as if you're in the room. In many ways, he's an extraordinarily detached writer. As I've got older, I've become keener on this.


Which novelists would you place alongside Tolstoy?

He really wrote in the tradition of history writing, which confuses people. He was writing between history and art, and to that extent the only writer who is remotely like him is Walter Scott. And Balzac to a certain extent.


And today's historical novelists?

Everyone writes in Tolstoy's shadow, whether one feels oneself to be Tolstoyan or not. His influence on the dissident writers of the Soviet Uniton was enormous. Figures like Grossman or Solzhenitsyn, although their language is less elevated, were dominated by a Tolstoyan desire to use fiction to tell the truth of history.


You seem to be publishing at a furious rate – a Dante biography last year, Hitler last month and a novel later this year.

A historical novel, in fact…


How do you manage it?

If you imagine writing 1,000 words a day, which most journalists do, that would be a very long book a year. I don't manage nearly that… but I have published slightly too much recently.


Richard Evans's very critical review of your Hitler book led to a heated exchange of letters. Do you enjoy spats?

No. I thought that Evans's review was just incredibly rude. We've all been rude in our time and you have to put up with that sort of thing. He did point out one or two howlers but the rest was rather absurd of him. Dons sometimes do that to generalists.


Do you think facts are overrated?

I think they're sacred and it's quite right to point out mistakes.


Where do you work?

I've never had a study in my life. I'm like Jane Austen – I work on the corner of the dining table.


Do you have a Kindle?

I do, but funnily enough it's very difficult to get any books on it you actually want. The first thing I thought I'd put on it was Froude's Life of Carlyle, which is one of my favourite biographies, but it's quite impossible. Then you try to download the Pléiade Proust rather than some crap Proust and you can't. Then I downloaded the complete works of Yeats, and the poems give out halfway through. So I think it's of very limited use. It's fine for aeroplanes and trains but it won't replace the dear old book.

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Re: Tolstoy's War and Peace

Post  Nah Ville Sky Chick on Tue Apr 24, 2012 5:24 am

I am listening to it unabridged on CD, 54 DISCS!!

I got it from my local library and it was completely free to loan, cheers I imagine it would cost a fortune to buy.

So far I am enjoying it very much, both the peace parts and the war parts. I particulary enjoyed the men daring each other to drink a bottle of rum in one go whilst balancing on a third floor window cill, some things never change. drunken

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Re: Tolstoy's War and Peace

Post  Nah Ville Sky Chick on Tue Jun 26, 2012 5:29 am

Still enjoying it, I am on disc 27 so about half way through.


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