The Long Tale

Friday, May 23, 2008


Two new translations of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace came out last fall. It seems everyone agrees that the 460,000-word novel is a masterpiece, but does anyone actually read it? Newsweek's Malcolm Jones says it's worth your time.

Comments [5]

Libby Steiner from New York City

The first Tolstoy I ever read was War and Peace. That was two years ago. It took me about four months of reading on the subway. In the end it is most definitely on my top ten favorite books list as well as on the list of books to reread.

I've recommended it highly to several people. All seem hesitant. They always comment on the length and seem to think it will somehow be over their heads. Neither of which should be a reason for not reading it.

Jun. 13 2008 11:21 PM
Mercedes Michalski from Shelby Township MI

I read War and Peace four years ago. I wanted to know why Virginia Woolf thought Tolstoy was so great. Now I know. Tolstoy is such a great thinker, (yes - as if he's alive,) that he is able to describe the characters and the reader begins to know them. It's wonderful. Next I read Anna Karenina and was not disappointed. It was terrific.

Jun. 09 2008 12:46 AM
D. Douglas from San Francisco

I failed in my first two attempts to read W&P because of the Russian names. Then it was serialized on TV, which helped me put names to faces, and I read along and quite liked it.

As for the length, however, I think you give it too much significance as a barrier. I read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi where even trilogies have practically become short forms. Some, like the Harry Potter novels, have natural end points within the series; others do not. My paperback editions of LOTR total about 1500 pages and each volume ends on a cliffhanger. I've probably read the entire trilogy 6 or 7 times.

Then, of course, there is Don Quixote, several Dickens novels, Vanity Fair, The Palliser novels, etc.

I can't help but wonder how many of the people who say they've never read W&P regularly read novels of any kind.

May. 25 2008 06:48 PM
Jennifer Timmons from Newark, DE

I love War & Peace! Like the previous listener, I've read it twice. For me, each time it was over a period of MONTHS, on a BUS, commuting to and from work and other places. I hope it's not a generational thing; I'm in my early 40s, and books--esp. literary classics, have been my friends throughout my life. :-)

I think it's SCARY that people would be put off by a voluminous literary classic, not to mention others expressing little inclination to want to READ because they have no time. Reading will take your imagination to great places, great heights! The boob tube will never do that.

May. 25 2008 12:03 PM
Sharon Frost from Brooklyn

I was a bit perplexed by your smidgen on War and Peace. I've read it (twice), my husband has read it and probably most of our friends have read it. What's the big deal? Is it generational (my husband and I are both in our 60s)?

I'll have to poll our friends who are in their 30s re: their thoughts.

May. 25 2008 10:06 AM

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