Monday, May 2, 2016
At the beginning of March, also known as "Read A Book You’ve Always Wanted To Read Month," I started reading Leo Tolstoy’s War And Peace, in a recent translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Now, exactly two month’s later, I have finished.
One reviewer wrote: “If the world could write by itself, it would write like Tolstoy.” And as cryptic as that sounds, I’d have to agree. To paraphrase Whitman, this is a book that contains multitudes. Originally written as narrative fiction, Tolstoy extensively re-wrote the novel over ten years to include chapter-long interludes on history, philosophy, politics and human nature. The overall effect is a book trying to describe everything, to understand everything. To contain multitudes.
Did I like it? “Like” isn’t the word I would use. It’s over 1200 pages long. And sometimes I found it vague and rambling, as if vodka might have been involved during the writing process. But, like the sun bursting out from a cloud, a passage would jump off the page, so beautiful and so moving, that I’d have to read it several times. As if, purely in the act of writing, Tolstoy had awakened to an almost Zen-like understanding of life. And in those moments, I was enthralled.
Reading War And Peace requires a commitment of time, attention, and patience. For me, the commitment was worth it. I felt as if I’d grown a little, understood the world a little better. And isn’t that one of the reasons why we read?
You can reserve War And Peace here.