November 24, 2007

"You are sometimes on the point of saying that so-and-so’s thighs showed that he wanted to travel in India!"

Some critic said that to Leo Tolstoy. But, so what? Let's read "War and Peace" again: There's a new translation by the wonderful Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

24 comments:

rhhardin said...

Tolstoy can seem almost childlike in his simplicity, because he is not embarrassed to do the kind of thing beloved of children’s and fairy-tale writers when they read the emotions on the face of a cat or a donkey.

I don't think you can coordinate children's and fairy-tale in normal English, but the New Yorker thrives on a degree of clunky difficulty that prepares you for a 20,000 word paid-by-the-word article.

Ann Althouse said...

good catch!

Peter Palladas said...

"Let's read "War and Peace" again..."

Yes let's. I am ashamed to say I have only read it the trice, and that from the ages of 12 to 17.

Somewhere - if still alive - is a nerd to whom I own total literary gratitude.

In the school library at the mere twelve, wanting to get beyond Steinbeck et al., I chanced upon W 'n' P.

"Oh, you don't want to read that!" said the nerd. "It's foreign rubbish."

That was all needed from a nerd to know I should love it as I did.

But then I discovered Dostoevsky and we all know what George Steiner said about those two...

reader_iam said...

Brendan Wolfe over at the beiderbecke affair has been doing an occasional series on "War and Peace, including a couple that mention the translation to which Althouse refers.

By the way, if you like a certain type of literary and cultural blog, I can't recommend Brendan's eclectic blog highly enough. He's a fine writer--and don't confuse length of posts with lack of crispness. I also find

If anyone's interested, I'd suggest following the first link (the second is to his "War and Peace" category) and poking around.

/OT promotion (and no, I do not know the blogger at all, except for being a long-time reader).

From Inwood said...

OK

Let me contribute the inevitable

"I took a speed reading course and read 'War and Peace' in twenty minutes. It involves Russia."

Woody Allen

Maxine Weiss said...

Maybe Althouse could speed-listen to the Audio version.

What is your listening speed? How many words in the English language can you process per minute?

Simon said...

I tried to read it when I was much younger, but every time I did - no kidding - the Charlie Brown cartoon where he's reading it would pop into my head and distract me.

From Inwood said...

"I took a speed reading course and read the New Yorker essay on 'War and Peace' in two minutes. It involves The New Yorker’s logorrhea"

One is tempted to paraphrase the same periodical by saying:

"Endlessly roll the sentences until reels the mind."

ricpic said...

Maybe all those nineteenth century novels were great. That's what everyone tells me but I'll never know because I can't get past page five.

reader_iam said...

Hey, Maxine, this one's for you!--

We're putting up Christmas lights all around our Federal-front Victorian today. We will be enjoying our first batch of hot, spiced (and, for the adults, spiked) cider, and also spiced pecans. The holiday china and glassware will be making its debut. Our "stringing-lights) tradition includes curried vegetable stew for dinner, so I will shortly commence preparing that as well.

Etc. Just a taste of the week and weekend ahead: Don't say I never think of you, Maxine.

reader_iam said...

I think I'm going to stick to mystery "cosies" this holiday season--I stocked up yesterday at I Love A Mystery in Mission, Kansas--but I've already put the new translation of "War and Peace" on my Christmas list. Can't wait to read it during the season of Epiphany!

(Neither of the two previous sentences are a joke--at least, not intentionally.)

Maxine Weiss said...

"Hey, Maxine, this one's for you!--

"We're putting up Christmas lights all around our Federal-front Victorian today. We will be enjoying our first batch of hot, spiced (and, for the adults, spiked) cider, and also spiced pecans. The holiday china and glassware will be making its debut. Our "stringing-lights) tradition includes curried vegetable stew for dinner, so I will shortly commence preparing that as well."
---reader_iam


http://www.last.fm/listen/user/YuleMaxine/playlist

rcocean said...

I've listened to the Walter Zimmerman BOT version several times, it was fantastic. Sadly, I think Walter died, he was a great reader.

BTW, I've never been able to READ W&P; only listen to it. Strangely, when reading the Russian names confuse me, but not while listening.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

I'm betting Althouse will read this book on her new Kindle. The Kindle is lighter than the paper version.

reader_iam said...

Maxine: I must confess that this year, we replaced all of our Christmas lights, for the first time in many years. We will be (actually, since we've progressed since my first comment on this off-topic, are) using the LED type, which uses something like 5% of the energy and also does not generate the heat (important since we'll likely be away during a chunk of the season). In theory, this type is also supposed to last longer, but about this we shall have to see.

But never fear: Our Christmas Trees will continue to feature ornaments as old as a century or so and representing every decade since, including this one.

reader_iam said...

About that percentage I used: This depends on the lights that are being replaced, of course. Etc.

***

Althouse, please trust me on this one: I'm doing this not just for Maxine, but also for you. Consider it my Christmas present. If you permit, you will see pieces of this thread pop up from time to time, over the season. If not ... just say the word.

reader_iam said...

I experience reading (well, re-reading) "War and Peace" as a grounding wire.

Grounding wires are under-appreciated things, in my estimation, at least consciously.

Ann Althouse said...

"I'm betting Althouse will read this book on her new Kindle. The Kindle is lighter than the paper version."

I don't have my Kindle yet, but I've been buying lots of things to be ready to load into it. This was one I looked for but it wasn't available in the format yet. I will definitely get it. This is a book I want to read, but don't want to lug around. And I hate to think the reading is about staying at home.

Blake said...

Oh, let's learn Russian instead and read it in the original!

Xarasho!

Chip Ahoy said...

War and Peace -- not enough pictures.

reader_iam said...

Blake: Shouldn't that be "the Russian"?

; )

Blake said...

"Let's learn THE Russian and read it in the original?"

Well, okay but what THE Russian should we learn about? The Mad Russian, Rasputin?

Ne ponimayu!

reader_iam said...

Back to the OT stuff: Here's a question that ought seriously to be pondered, given the season (I'm waving at YOU, Maxine; MAXINE, are you paying attention?).

Should fireplace fires be banned?

Even putting aside the atmospherics, what the hell are we supposed to do about the chestnuts, roasting o'er an open fire? (Yes, we do that. The "yummy, yummy!" factor, either way, is decidedly and emphatically not the point.

As Maxine, I am confident, understands.)

A conundrum. What then must we do?

Jeff with one 'f' said...

Richard Pevear's new translation of "The Three Musketeers" is a masterpiece and a great joy to read' I hope that he translates "20 Years After" which is one of the greatest books that I have ever read.