Today I give you a new edition of one of the best stories I have ever come across. Interested? Good. The author is Leo Tolstoy, and the book is War and Peace. WAIT! No! Do not turn me off. Give me a chance - like love, like peace….that kinda chance. Ready? Here is my pitch:
War and Peace is NOT the monster you think it is. Open it…go ahead…just read the first sentence. Good grief, here…
Well, Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the Buonapartes. But I warn you, if you don’t tell me that this means war, if you still try to defend the infamies and horrors perpetrated by that Antichrist – I really believe he is Antichrist – I will have nothing more to do with you and you are no longer my friend, no longer my ‘faithful slave,’ as you call yourself! But how do you do? I see I have frightened you – sit down and tell me all the news. It was July, 1805, and the speaker was well-known Anna Pavlovna Scherer….
This story is a wild adventure, and from the first sentence you are thrown into the middle of one of the most fascinating times in history with the most fascinating people. AND NOW…we have a new translation! (We have two new translations, actually, but I’ll get to that later.)
The translation I quoted from above was the 1942 translation by Louise and Aylmer Maude. The new translation available at Farley’s right now is the translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. This team is very sensitive to not only creating a good, readable English version, but also a version that keeps Tolstoy’s voice and cadence in place. Other Russians this team have tackled to rave reviews include Fyodor Dostoevsky and Nikolai Gogol.
The second new translation is by Andrew Bromfield. Bromfield’s translation is not the epic that we now know. The manuscript that makes up the Broomfield translation was first published, by Tolstoy, in 1866 in a Russian literary magazine. This version is shorter and (I’ve been told) lacks the literary quality of the Pevear and Volokhonsky team (but check it out for yourself).
It has been ten years since I wondered through Tolstoy’s Russian landscape with his unforgettable characters. The first time I read this book it was July and hot. One reading afternoon as I was drawn farther and farther into Napoleon’s winter wars my body temperature actually dropped. It wasn’t until I started shivering and lost my concentration that I looked up and realized it was 90 some degrees; but I had goose bumps, for I had been in a Russian winter.
I am ready to go back. I hope you decide to give this tale a try!