‘War and Peace’ is a masterpiece – a panoramic portrait of Russian society and its descent into the Napoleonic Wars which for over a century has inspired reverential devotion among its readers.
This version is certain to provoke controversy and devotion in equal measures. A ‘first draft’ of the epic version known to all, it was completed in 1866 but never published. A closely guarded secret for a century and a half, the unveiling of the original version of ‘War and Peace’, with an ending different to that we all know, is of huge significance to students of Tolstoy. But it is also sure to prove fascinating to the general reader who will find it an invigorating and absorbing read. Free of the solemn philosophical wanderings, the drama and tragedy of this sweeping tale is reinforced. His characters remain central throughout, emphasising their own personal journeys, their loves and passions, their successes and failures and their own personal tragedies.
500 pages shorter, this is historical fiction at its most vivid and vital, and readers will marvel anew at Tolstoy’s unique ability to conjure the lives and souls of Russia and the Russians in all their glory. For devotees who long for more, for those who struggled and didn’t quite make it to the end, or for those who have always wanted to know what all the fuss is about, this is essential reading.
War and Peace begins with a scene at a party in St. Petersburg in 1805. It is the Napoleonic era – the French general has conquered much of Western Europe and Russia is nervous. Russia is allied with the Austrian Empire which is resisting Napoleon’s forces along its borders.
At the party the reader is introduced to the main characters including Pierre Bezukhov and Andrew Bolkonski and members of two families: Vasili, Anatole, and Helene Kuragin and Natasha, Sonya, and Nicholas Rostov.
The plot is driven by the actions of the families – Andrew and Pierre join the Russian army at the Austrian Front, Nicholas almost gambles his family’s fortune away, and when Pierre returns home, he almost kills his wife’s lover. Andrew, missing in action on the Austrian Front, eventually returns home to find his wife has just died in childbirth.
This annotated edition includes a biography and critical essay.
War and Peace delineates in graphic detail events surrounding the French invasion of Russia, and the impact of the Napoleonic era on Tsarist society, as seen through the eyes of five Russian aristocratic families. Portions of an earlier version of the novel, then known as The Year 1805, were serialized in the magazine The Russian Messenger between 1865 and 1867. The novel was first published in its entirety in 1869. Newsweek in 2009 ranked it first in its list of the Top 100 Books. In 2003, the novel was listed at number 20 on the BBC's survey The Big Read.
Tolstoy himself, somewhat enigmatically, said of War and Peace that it was "not a novel, even less is it a poem, and still less a historical chronicle". Large sections of the work, especially in the later chapters, are philosophical discussion rather than narrative. He went on to elaborate that the best Russian literature does not conform to standard norms and hence hesitated to call War and Peace a novel. (Instead, Tolstoy regarded Anna Karenina as his first true novel.)
‘War & Peace’ is a masterpiece – an epic portrait of Russian society and its descent into the Napoleonic Wars, which has inspired love and devotion among its readers for over a century.
Focusing on the lives of five aristocratic families, ‘War & Peace’ tells the story of three young people whose lives are swept along by events and changed forever: the misfit Pierre, philosophical Andrei and romantic, impulsive Natasha.
Their stories play out alongside a great cast of characters, from the aristocrat to the peasant, as the great historical events of the period unfold, culminating in Napoleon’s fateful invasion of Russia.
Michael R. Katz's readable and compelling translation is now the definitive unabridged English-language version, brilliantly capturing the extraordinary qualities of the original. William G. Wagner has provided full annotations to Chernyshevsky's allusions and references and to the, sources of his ideas, and has appended a critical bibliography. An introduction by Katz and Wagner places the novel in the context of nineteenth-century Russian social, political, and intellectual history and literature, and explores its importance for several generations of Russian radicals.