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Book Specific Discussions > War and Peace (by Leo Tolstoy)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I have just started particpating in a year long read-along of Tolstoy's War and Peace. The read-along, sponsored by the blogger, dovegreyreader, in Devonshire, England commenced on Tolstoy's 185th birthday, September 9, 2010 (http://dovegreyreader.typepad.com/dovegr... ) Some other people here at BOTNS have expressed an interest in also reading along, so I thought I would set up a thread here for any "stuff" that might come up during this venture! You don't have to be doing dovegreyreader's read-along to post here though! Anyone can chime in!

There were a couple of things that I did to get ready for W&P: 1) Instead of reading the introduction by Rosemary Edmonds, I read the bit of lit-crit by Jack Murningham in Beowulf on the Beach: What to Love and What to Skip in Literature's 50 Greatest Hits. Trust me, much more entertaining and insightful than whatever some erudite English professor has written for your edition! Plus, no real spoilers, which I find many writers of introductions tend to do when penning material for a Classic and, 2) I got out my French-English/English-French dictionary. There are some untranslated bits of French in the text and I'm finding the dictionary very helpful. I'm working from an un-annotated edition so if anyone has footnotes or other comments they would like to share, they would be most welcome!

Here are some things that have already come up:

French:
"la grippe" (It's the flu)
"Que voulez-vous?" (literally "What do you want?" but used rhetorically)
"la femme la plus seduisante de Petersbourg" ("very seductive woman of Peterburg" - Yeah, you know the type...)
"Dieu me la donne, gare a qui la touche" ("God gives it to me, beware whoever touches it")
"Baton de gueules, engrele de gueules d'azur" (Hippolyte is describing the Conde coat of arms which is basically a bar of red running diagonally across three fleur-de-lis on a background of blue) - read into it what you may in terms of irony. You can see the coat of arms here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category...

Principals
Hippolyte is the elder son of Prince Vasili Kuragin and Anatole is the younger son. I bring this up because dovegreyreader provides a rather nice bookmark for you to print out which contains a list of the characters. Unfortunately, there is a teensy error in that Anatole is listed as the older son and Hippolyte as the younger. That Anatole is the younger son is supported by the text (Anna Pavlovna says to Prince Vasili, "... I don't include Anatole, your youngest. I don't like him...")


Other:
So what's with the French?
The aristocracy of Russia started speaking French since the time of Catherine the Great. It was seen as much more sophisticated and cosmopolitan than Russian. Many Russian nobles couldn't even speak their native language!


message 2: by Eric (new)

Eric | 1175 comments Mod
The theme of France's cultural sway over Russia is key. It reminded me of playing Sid Meier's Civilization. If you've ever played it you know that sometimes your "culture" can get so strong that neighboring cities spontaneously "flip" over to your side without a shot being fired.


message 3: by Jason (last edited Sep 12, 2010 07:10PM) (new)

Jason (jasonct) | 69 comments Until the US really became a key player in the world, French was the common language for business and international diplomacy.


message 4: by Lekeshua (new)

Lekeshua | 16 comments Count me in. I'm hoping to get my copy this weekend. Tanya what edition do you have?


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Lekeshua wrote: "Count me in. I'm hoping to get my copy this weekend. Tanya what edition do you have?"

I have the Penguin edition translated by Rosemary Edmonds. It dates from the 1950's. There are older translations (one by Constance Garnett comes to mind) that has more untranslated French in it and, newer editions (editions translated by Pevear & Volokhonsky and another Penguin edition translated by Briggs) which use more a more reader-friendly approach to translations. There's one edition of W&P I would have loved to get, the Oxford University Press edition translated by Maude; but it is not available in the US until December 15.


message 6: by [deleted user] (last edited Sep 19, 2010 08:44PM) (new)

Thoughts for today:
Even though Alexander is the Tsar during the time this novel is set, the influence of Catherine the Great is keenly felt. Regent prior to Alexander's ascent, Catherine was a German princess who married into the Romanof dynasty and set about to make Russia a major European power. She introduced the best of Western thought and style into her court, including the writings and philosophies of the French Enlightenment humanists such as Rousseau (SOCIAL CONTRACT.) The Russian court became very much a French court in language, thought and style. Hence, as the novels opens in the salons of Anna Pavlovna, the nobility speak in French, haltingly in Russian, and reflect a French sensibility. But now the Enlightenment ideals have been made manifest in the distasteful French Revolution and the French peoples have been made vulnerable to the power sweeps of Buonaparte. Russia feels the tremors of the Imperialist intentions of Napolean as Austria becomes threatened... Book 1/Part 1/Chapter 4 is in many ways *the* key to understanding the mindset and/or motivations of the characters in the novel.

Other:
"redingote" - a riding coat. I know, it sounds like "riding coat" with a phony French accent, but really, I'm not making it up!
For a picture of a redingote: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redingote
The picture is captioned as being an 1813 redingote; but subtract 8 years and add some length (to the ankles) and I think you get the idea :-)


message 7: by Liz (new)

Liz Brown | 15 comments i read war & peace a long time ago , it was interesting, tolstoy is a great writer. also read anna karenia. enjoyed that book also.


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Liz wrote: "i read war & peace a long time ago , it was interesting, tolstoy is a great writer. also read anna karenia. enjoyed that book also."

I've read ANNA KARENINA twice; but I was still intimidated by WAR & PEACE! For some reason, I thought because of its epic size, it would also be dense or obtuse (Irrational, I know, but "there it is!") I'm finding W&P very straightforward and entertaining. It's difficult not to race ahead!


message 9: by Jason (new)

Jason (jasonct) | 69 comments Still waiting for my copy to arrive (fingers crossed today) as I really am not enjoying reading on the computer.

I, like you Tanya, for some mental reason blocked myself from picking the book up, but also agree that what I've read so far has been very approachable.


message 10: by Liz (new)

Liz Brown | 15 comments i read war & peace, enjoyed it ver much, also read anna karenia. like russian fiction,


message 11: by Jeweleye (new)

Jeweleye | 24 comments Tanya wrote: "Thoughts for today:
Even though Alexander is the Tsar during the time this novel is set, the influence of Catherine the Great is keenly felt. Regent prior to Alexander's ascent, Catherine was a Ger..."


Thanks for this post, Tanya. I like having the historical context without doing the research myself, ha ha!

I'm reading W&P on my Kindle (don't know which translation). Otherwise I wouldn't be able to take it on my commute! I also have the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation that I keep handy when I'm home. Interestingly, the Kindle edition that I'm reading translates the French dialogue that I see in the P/V version.

Now that I've started, I'm not sure what the big deal is about reading it, other than sheer number of pages and therefore requiring a huge time commitment. (Well, that and the Russian name variations.) Anyone who has read the 7 (so far) Outlander series with all the Gaelic thrown in should find W&P a walk in the park!


message 12: by [deleted user] (last edited Sep 26, 2010 06:01PM) (new)

Thoughts for today:
Children. Wow, there is a lot about children. Children who are children, children who act like adults, adults who act like children. And again, children who are treated as adults, adults who are treated as children and, that painful in-between time when you're not really a child and certainly not a grown up. The idea of children is underscored not only by the characters themselves and their actions; but by the language: "My dear," "My Child," etc.

Mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, cousins and loves. The family trees are constructed and, at the root, the familial obligations which provide the motivations of the characters in the intimate sense, the context which allows the absurd and the unexpected to happen. The things we do, the things we indulge in, in the name of love!

Other:
> Suvorov was not literally hacked to death. He was a military genius who was politically cut.
There is a brief bio of him at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexande...
> clavier: It's a percussive keyboard instrument. It looks like a large awkward upright piano of sorts.
> ecossaise - This is a Scottish Highlands dance. I can only speculate that it made its way into the Russian courts because the French were often allied with the Scots against the English and, by now we all now about the Russian penchant for all things French.
YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1CMN-...
> anglaise - literally an English dance. I'm not clear whether it is a specific dance or a dance style.
A YouTube video of a dance competition in France ("anglaise") - ignore the bad American music (I ended up muting it and just watched the dancing) - http://www.youtube.com/user/dancespor...
> Daniel Cooper - a dance of the Russian nobility, popular from 1803 - 1815
A link to a professional dance company that performs the Daniel Cooper, includes a YouTube video: http://www.barynya.com/RussianDance/d...


message 13: by Jason (new)

Jason (jasonct) | 69 comments Just thought I would share a quote from a scene I enjoyed:

Prince Andrey to Pierre

"Never, never marry, my dear fellow; that's my advice to you; don't marry till you have faced the fact that you have done all you're capable of doing, and till you cease to love the women you have chosen, till you see her plainly, or else you will make a cruel mistake that can never be set right. Marry when you're old and good for nothing...Or else everything good and lofty in you will be done for."


message 14: by Jason (new)

Jason (jasonct) | 69 comments Another quote that I found touching, and could be applied to today's current affairs.

From a letter written from Princess Marya to her childhood friend Julie

"It seems as though humanity had forgotten the laws of its divine Saviour, Who preached love and the forgiveness of offences, and were making the greatest merit to consist in the art of killing one another."


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

Jason wrote: "Another quote that I found touching, and could be applied to today's current affairs.

From a letter written from Princess Marya to her childhood friend Julie

"It seems as though humanity had forgotten the laws of its divine Saviour, Who preached love and the forgiveness of offences, and were making the greatest merit to consist in the art of killing one another.""


LOL, "today's current affairs?!" I would have to say humanity forgot "the laws of its divine Saviour" about 2 minutes after the Divine Savior uttered them!


message 16: by Jason (new)

Jason (jasonct) | 69 comments Another quote that I enjoyed, along with the analogy

The enemy troops have just come into sight, and Denisov is with his regiment and reflecting on what battle means:

"One step across that line, that suggests the line dividing the living from the dead, and unknown sufferings and death. And what is there? and who is there? there, beyond that field and that tree and the roofs with the sunlight on them? No one knows, and one longs to know and dreads crossing that line, and longs to cross it, and one knows that sooner or later one will have to cross it and find out what there is on the other side of the line, just as one must inevitably find out what is on the other side of death. "


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

Thoughts for the day:
The death of Count Bezuhof. It's very easy to read the Count's death as simply a catalyst which propels Pierre onto a new destiny; but the reverent treatment of his passing-away, which pings upon the readers' religious and symbolic consciousness, also points to a rather heavy-handed metaphor regarding the end of an age (Grand Siecle) in the Russian psyche.

Look-ups:
"Dussek's Sonata" that Princess Maria is playing twenty times refers to a piece that Jan Ladislav Dussek wrote. Tolstoy does not specify which sonata that might be (and Dussek actually write quite a few) but for an idea of what a Dussek Sonata sounds like (played on a pianoforte) there is a YouTube "video" which consists of a few photographs with Dussek's Sonata in C minor, Op.35 No.3 scored underneath: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ti0aPz...

"Grand Siècle" [Count Bezuhof was referred to as "the last representative but one of the grand siecle" in a letter from Princess Maria to her friend, Julie] The age of LOUIS XIV (1643–1715), the period of France's greatest magnificence, when it replaced Spain as the dominant power in Europe and established its cultural pre-eminence. The genius of RICHELIEU as chief minister (1624–42) had established the authority of the monarchy and achieved a far greater degree of internal unity for France than was possessed by its rivals. Europe was impressed by the splendours of the court of VERSAILLES. French military predominance was won by the brilliant victories of CONDÉ and Turenne and the creation of the first modern standing army. The splendour of the Grand Siècle, based as it was on heavy taxation of the poorest classes, and a commitment to expensive military campaigns, gave way after the king's death to the more turbulent climate of the 18th century.
("Grand Siècle." A Dictionary of World History. 2000. Encyclopedia.com. (October 3, 2010). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O48-...)


message 18: by Jason (new)

Jason (jasonct) | 69 comments Thanks Tanya - you know what I enjoyed about the scene in which the Count passes, was how building up to his death you really start to see the personalities (esp. their flaws) start to come to life.


message 19: by Jason (new)

Jason (jasonct) | 69 comments Music and art are just a natural compliment to one another.

Here is the soundtrack I've chosen that represents Book 1 to me:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWsjOq...


message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

Thought for the day:
More like a question. War and Peace is pretty straight forward reading. It's basic linear narrative. And yet, right in the middle of the story, Tolstoy employs the epistolary form. Julie writes her girlhood friend, Princess Maria and Maria writes back. Why would Tolstoy do that? What is your impression of its effect?


message 21: by Jason (new)

Jason (jasonct) | 69 comments Tanya wrote: "Thought for the day:
More like a question. War and Peace is pretty straight forward reading. It's basic linear narrative. And yet, right in the middle of the story, Tolstoy employs the epistolary ..."


Well I think the epistolary form gives Marya a voice (and personality) that heretofore has been nonexistent and I'm not sure that the narrative dialog could do.
I hope that made sense.


message 22: by Jason (last edited Oct 06, 2010 05:47PM) (new)

Jason (jasonct) | 69 comments Another quote I found touching.
This from Princess Marya, reflecting on her wanting to have someone love her, and her to love.

"Desire nothing for thyself, be not covetous, anxious, envious. The future of men and thy destiny too must be unknown for thee; but live that thou mayest be ready for all."


message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

Thoughts for the day:
We've moved from the drawing rooms to the battlefields! For those who have an aversion to war stories, never fear, these are pretty bloodless. A lot about the colors of coats, strategic locations, horses and, smoke; but no gore!

Look-Ups:

Hofkriegsrath: Viennese War Council - represents the Austrian/Hapsburg court

Ismail: clearly from the context of the story, this was a battle that some of the older soldiers had participated in. I can find very little about this battle and Europe's/Russia's involvement in it; but I'm speculating that it is a reference to The Battle of Patan (a conflict in India which pitted Rajouts against the imperialist Marathas) which took place in the late 18th century. The Marathas were allied with European powers.

cornet: standard bearer and pretty much the lowest possible ranking officer

subaltern: all the officers below the rank of captain. Lieutenants and cornets were subalterns.
Order of Maria Theresa: It's an Austrian award for an officer who basically saves the day by disobeying a direct order: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military...

hussar: light cavalryman; "light" means lightly armed/armored men on horseback

snaffle: horses bit
This is a picture of a D-ring bit. The bit is placed in the horses mouth and the reins are attached to the curved sides of the "D"s. The rider "steers" the horse by tugging on the rein on the side that the rider wants to go. The reins tug on the horse's mouth and the horse goes that way.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dee...

doppel-kummel: a caraway flavored liquor. I'm actually eager to try this. It's suggested that you put it in the freezer before-hand so I'm thinking it's probably like vodka in temperment.

Vorspann: This is a wide cart. Imagine a Connestoga wagon without the cover.

sabretache - This could best be described as a cavalryman-purse :-) It was a bag that hung from three straps on the left side of the horsemen. The link below directs you to a web-site of toy soldiers, er, military miniatures executed in fine detail. The model is a Prussian Hussar (and he is wearing a sabretache:)
http://models.robin-ellis.com/categor...


message 24: by Jason (new)

Jason (jasonct) | 69 comments Nice inclusions as always Tanya!

My reflective quote for the day.

Uttered by a badly injured Prince Andrey:

"There is nothing, nothing certain but the nothingness of all that is comprehensible to us, and the grandeur of something incomprehensible, but more important!"


message 25: by Callie (new)

Callie (calliekl) | 646 comments OK, I'm still in the beginning section, Sonya and Nicholas and Boris and Natasha are pairing off in the conservatory, and honestly, I'm having a hard time keeping all of the people straight! It's sad, I got the book for free, but I'm thinking about getting the sparknotes or something- just to help me figure out what's important, who's important, and what it all means. I feel like a bit of a failure, I'm not going to lie!


message 26: by Jason (new)

Jason (jasonct) | 69 comments Callie wrote: "OK, I'm still in the beginning section, Sonya and Nicholas and Boris and Natasha are pairing off in the conservatory, and honestly, I'm having a hard time keeping all of the people straight! It's s..."

Callie - I have an insert that I could send you that has all the main (important) characters, who they're related to, maps of the battles, and where everyone gets introduced. If you'd like it I could mail it to you.


message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

Callie wrote: "OK, I'm still in the beginning section, Sonya and Nicholas and Boris and Natasha are pairing off in the conservatory, and honestly, I'm having a hard time keeping all of the people straight! It's sad, I got the book for free, but I'm thinking about getting the sparknotes or something- just to help me figure out what's important, who's important, and what it all means. I feel like a bit of a failure, I'm not going to lie! "

dovegreyreader offers a bookmark in pdf form which contains the cast list:
http://dovegreyreader.typepad.com/W%2...
My bookmark and the margins of the book have little notes on it that I've made like "Sonya = kitten" and "Natasha [heart] Boris." I find that writing it down, however cryptic the notes may seem to others, helps me imprint the characters and their relationships in my mind.

Sonya is very "kittenish" and is in love with her first cousin, Nikolai.
Sonya is also very jealous of Julie, who Nikolai engages in a couple of conversations with.
Julie is Princess Marya's friend since childhood.
Princess Marya comes up a bit more later, but you already know her as a possible (marriage) match for Anatole, who runs a bit wild.
Anatole is either the elder or younger son (depending on which translation you read) of Prince Vasily Kuragin who you met at the beginning of the story as he entered Anna Pavlovna's (Scherer's) party.

Natasha is Nikolai's sister (and Sonya's cousin.)
Natasha is *twelve years old* and has a mad crush on Boris.
Boris is the son of Anna Mikhaylovna, the "aunt" who appears at the parties.
Anna Mikhaylovna will do anything for her son.

Hope that helps?


message 28: by Jason (new)

Jason (jasonct) | 69 comments I did think it was cute when Natasha stole that first kiss in the conservatory.


message 29: by Jason (new)

Jason (jasonct) | 69 comments Pierre is waiting to find a horse so he can continue his travels and starts to reflect:

"What is wrong? What is right? What must one love, what must one hate? What is life for, and what am I? What is life? What is death? What force controls us all?

His reply: "One dies and it's all over. One dies and finds it all out or ceases asking."

Love the Russian humor!


message 30: by Callie (new)

Callie (calliekl) | 646 comments Tanya wrote: "Callie wrote: "OK, I'm still in the beginning section, Sonya and Nicholas and Boris and Natasha are pairing off in the conservatory, and honestly, I'm having a hard time keeping all of the people s..."

Tanya, thanks so much for that link- I've printed it out, and it's definitely helping me keep track of the cast of characters. I've also started keeping a journal with chapter summaries, which is something I haven't done since high school, if not earlier. It's great with helping me remember where I left off in the story, especially reading in the DailyLit email format.


message 31: by Callie (new)

Callie (calliekl) | 646 comments Just checking in to see if anyone is still reading this!

I'm still slowly making my way through, a few pages a day from DailyLit. We're back in Anna Pavlovna's drawing room after the first War section, and I am excited just to see that I still remember who most of these people are!

One thing I enjoy about reading Historical Fiction is being inspired to do a little research about the time period the story takes place in. I'm learning quite a bit about Napolean, and the battles between the Russians and the French.... funny, I always learn more about history when it's in the context of fiction than I ever did in History class!


message 32: by [deleted user] (new)

Callie wrote: "Just checking in to see if anyone is still reading this!

I'm still slowly making my way through, a few pages a day from DailyLit. We're back in Anna Pavlovna's drawing room after the first War sec..."


Yes, I'm still plugging away! I'm sorry to have let so much time go by. I'l start posting tonight and over the next few days to help make up for the lost time.


message 33: by Ann (new)

Ann (akingman) | 2097 comments Mod
Largely inspired by you guys, a friend and I have vowed to read War & Peace, starting in February. We've set up a facebook group if you'd like to join us. It's self-paced, so those of you who are well along on the journey should feel free to join us as well, and cheer us along through the rough spots.

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=g...


message 34: by Lynsay (new)

Lynsay Tervit (lynsaytea) | 18 comments I'm in! (and i'm a bit scared!!)


message 35: by Tandra (new)

Tandra | 3 comments I am in. I tried to do alone and it was tough


message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

In deference to the read-along beginning in February, I will stop posting commentary to this thread. I'll still be reading and taking notes, but I'll save them for Ann's read-along. By then I should have finished and I might even go for the audio at that point!


message 37: by Ann (new)

Ann (akingman) | 2097 comments Mod
Oh, Tonya, don't stop on account of the readalong. It's fine, really!


message 38: by Ann (new)

Ann | 4 comments I'm in. I read 'War and Peace' maybe thirty years ago, when I was travelling to work on the bus - not the best way of enjoying a book, especially when you're always conscious that you can't get too involved in case you miss your stop! This time round I'm hoping to do the novel justice.


message 39: by [deleted user] (new)

Hello all,

I was going to participate in this readalong, but I don't really have the time. I do though have a hardcover version (modern library) that I am willing to sell to anyone still looking for the book. It's in great condition, because I have not read it yet.

If you would like it ($15 [including shipping] or we can make a deal) please contact me via goodreads or at hereonabreath@gmail.com.

Thanks and have fun!


message 40: by Kathy (new)

Kathy (kathmac) | 14 comments Ann, I did it! I read War and Peace. It took a few years to read the novel on my Nook (January 2011 to April 2014).

I decided to relax, read only when I felt like it and think of the book as an ongoing television series. I'm actually sad War and Peace hasn't been renewed for another season.


message 41: by Linda (new)

Linda | 2752 comments Mod
Kathy wrote: "Ann, I did it! I read War and Peace. It took a few years to read the novel on my Nook (January 2011 to April 2014).

I decided to relax, read only when I felt like it and think of the bo..."


Congratulations, Kathy! That's quite a feat.

Now, on to The Count of Monte Cristo? Unabridged, of course.


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