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War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics: All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences-biographical, historical, and literary-to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works. The most famous-and perhaps greatest-novel of all time, Tolstoy's War and Peace tells the story of five families struggling for survival during Napoleon's invasion of Russia. Among its many unforgettable characters is Prince Andrey Bolkonsky, a proud, dashing man who, despising the artifice of high society, joins the army to achieve glory. Badly wounded at Austerlitz, he begins to discover the emptiness of everything to which he has devoted himself. His death scene is considered one of the greatest passages in Russian literature.
The novel's other hero, the bumbling Pierre Bezukhov, tries to find meaning in life through a series of philosophical systems that promise to resolve all questions. He at last discovers the Tolstoyan truth that wisdom is to be found not in systems but in the ordinary processes of daily life, especially in his marriage to the novel's most memorable heroine, Natasha. Both an intimate study of individual passions and an epic history of Russia and its people, War and Peace is nothing more or less than a complete portrait of human existence. Joseph Frank is Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature and Slavic Languages and Literature at Stanford University. He is the author of a five-volume study of Dostoevsky's life and work.
About The Author Joseph Frank is Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature and Slavic Languages and Literature at Stanford University. He is the author of a fivevolume study of Dostoevsky's life and work.
Biography Count Leo Tolstoy was born in 1828 on the family estate of Yasnaya Polyana, in the Tula province, where he spent most of his early years, together with his several brothers. In 1844 he entered the University of Kazan to read Oriental Languages and later Law, but left before completing a degree. He spent the following years in a round of drinking, gambling and womanizing, until weary of his idle existence he joined an artillery regiment in the Caucasus in 1851.
He took part in the Crimean war and after the defence of Sevastopol wrote The Sevastopol Sketches (1855-6), which established his literary reputation. After leaving the army in 1856 Tolstoy spent some time mixing with the literati in St Petersburg before traveling abroad and then settling at Yasnaya Polyana, where he involved himself in the running of peasant schools and the emancipation of the serfs. His marriage to Sofya Andreyevna Behrs in 1862 marked the beginning of a period of contentment centred around family life; they had thirteen children. Tolstoy managed his vast estates, continued his educational projects, cared for his peasants and wrote both his great novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877). During the 1870s he underwent a spiritual crisis, the moral and religious ideas that had always dogged him coming to the fore. A Confession (1879-82) marked an outward change in his life and works; he became an extreme rationalist and moralist, and in a series of pamphlets written after 1880 he rejected church and state, indicted the demands of flesh, and denounced private property. His teachings earned him numerous followers in Russia and abroad, and also led finally to his excommunication by the Russian Holy Synod in 1901. In 1910 at the age of eighty-two he fled from home "leaving this worldly life in order to live out my last days in peace and solitude;" he died some days later at the station master's house at Astapovo. Author biography courtesy of Penguin Books LTD.
Reviews Thanks to British narrator Frederick Davidson's performance, it is safe to say that there will not be a better
recording of Tolstoy's masterpiece for some time. The heart of this drama is the metamorphosis of five familiesAsome peasant, some aristocraticAamid the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. Each individual is immersed in experiences and conversations elucidating Tolstoy's themes of self-sacrifice and self-indulgence, anguish and ecstasy, diplomacy and deception, and religion and perdition. The complexities of character and plot are sometimes enigmatic, and names are often exhausting to recollect, but the genius of this book is everlasting. The impressive dialog sparkles with humor and wit, and the vivid scenes of battle are riveting. An entire universe is created by one of the foremost thinkers of the 19th century, and Davidson's exquisite narration heightens the perfection of this novel, regarded as one of the greatest in literature. Highly recommended for all collections.
Why did Leo Tolstoy write War and Peace? I came across an interesting tidbit on the web that said General Kutuzov, having left no heirs, left his estate to the Tolstoy family. I couldn't quite find out whether the author was indeed a member of the family of the beneficiaries of Kutuzov, but in any case, then the case can be made that, at least in part, the novel was written as a way of redeeming Kutuzov's reputation; as it was tarnished by historians up to the time of the writing of the book. To this end, Tolstoy excrutiatingly builds the case against those historians who had excoriated Kutuzov, and in the end, demolishes those historians with a compendium of the most brilliant arguments I have ever read. The whole point of building his complex web of characters and plots was, to my thinking, to justify Tolstoy's end conclusions. Along the way so many topics are covered -- and so well-covered -- that this is a book that should be one everyone's "bucket list". Read this book before you die!
This is a masterpiece of historical fiction. A stunning background of Russian aristocracy during the upheaval of the Napoleonic Era, Tolstoy drew upon long- lived accounts survivors' accounts to provide rich, vivid detail. Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, the sophisticated soldier, and bumbling, illegitimate but likable Count Pierre Buzukhof are the lead characters, representing in their way, war and peace. Both men love the lively Natasha Rostova, but only one man wins and redeems her, fittingly enough, Pierre (peace). Tolstoy uses the story as a vehicle for his often displayed critique of a decadent aristocracy brilliantly in French retreat from Moscow. Pierre learns much through suffering. Prince Andrei learns much through his experiences during the battle of Borodino, but dies of his wounds. Napoleon is defeated, Natasha and Pierre marry, and peace, for a time is restored.
I would have to say this is one of the best novels I have ever read. I was a little intimidated by the size. Usually books this long can become boring at times and make you want to skip ahead. This book kept me wanting more. I had a hard time putting the book down and was sad when I finished. I have read some of Leo Tolstoy's other work and have fallen in love with his writing. He is a great writer and I can't believe I waited this long to read one of the best books ever to be written. The way he interwined the 5 families in this story of tragedy, heroism, love and defeat was brilliant. I plan on reading it again.
Read An Excerpt From Joseph Frank's Introduction to War and Peace Tolstoy's masterly portrayal of military life, already evident in his earlier work, reaches new heights in War and Peace on a much larger scale. No other novel can compete with Tolstoy's in the superb panoply he offers of regimental displays and parades, and of battle scenes seen both from a distance and in close combat. Also, as Marie EugÃ¨ne Melchior, vicomte de VogÃ¼Ã©, noted in Le Roman russe (1886), his pioneering book on the Russian novel, which brought writers like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky to the attention of the European public, no one could compete with Tolstoy in his portrayal of the life of the court and the upper reaches of society. The Vicomte himself, who had frequented the Russian court, remarks that when writers attempt to portray such closed social circles of the highest society they rarely succeed in winning the confidence of their readers; but Tolstoy had no such difficulty because here he was "in his native element." He was in his native element as well, after his years in the Caucasus and in Sevastopol, in the many scenes in which the rank-and-file Russian soldiers banter with each other around their bivouacs or while marching to and from their battles. Nothing fascinated Tolstoy more, at least in this period of his career, than the mysterious force that, as he put it, moved millions of men to march from west to east and then back again, all the while "perpetrat[ing] against one another so great a mass of crime-fraud, swindling, robbery . . . plunder, incendiarism, and murder-that the annals of all the criminal courts of the world could not muster such a sum of wickedness in whole centuries." How could an event of this kind have taken place, "opposed to human reason and all human nature," while at the same time "the men who committed those deeds did not at that time look on them as crimes." The problem of war and warfare more and more preoccupies Tolstoy as the book moves on, and it evolves into a theory of history whose ideas are scattered throughout these later chapters and argued theoretically in the second epilogue. Sir Isaiah Berlin's The Hedgehog and the Fox views Tolstoy as a fox, unremittingly occupied with the minutiae of particulars while longing for the unitary vision of the hedgehog "who knows one big thing." His brilliant and stimulating pages have given Tolstoy's views on history a new prominence, but this is not the place to plunge into their philosophical complexities. As a great novelist, Tolstoy dramatizes the pith of his doctrines with illuminating clarity, and we can grasp their essential point by citing a few scenes from the book. One such point is the impossibility of those presumably in command to anticipate what will happen on the battlefield, and thus the uselessness of all elaborate plans prepared in advance. The Austrian general Weyrother presents such a plan before the battle of Austerlitz and is certain that it will bring victory; but the combined Austrian-Russian forces are badly beaten. An even more elaborate plan is proposed before the battle of Borodino and proves equally useless. The reason for such failure is illustrated by the account of the minor battle of SchÃ¶ngraben, where Prince Andrey watches the behavior of the Russian commander Prince Bagration as the fighting proceeds. All sorts of contradictory reports came in, but "Prince Bagration confined himself to trying to appear as though everything that was being done of necessity, by chance, or at the will of individual officers, was all done, if not by his order, at least in accordance with his intentions." As a result, officers who were "distraught regained their composure" and morale was strengthened. For Tolstoy, it was morale that ultimately decided the course of combat-the morale of the soldiers and the behavior of individuals like the unprepossessing Captain Tushin, who pays no attention to orders, responds to the immediate situation, and, as only Prince Andrey realizes, is really responsible for the Russsian success at SchÃ¶ngraben . Tolstoy thus rejects the "great man" theory of history, particularly thinking of Napoleon, which attributes military success to the superior capacities of a leader capable of dominating in advance the uncertainties and vicissitudes of what transpires on the battlefield. Prince Andrey learns another Tolstoyan lesson when, sent to report on a minor victory, he is ushered into the presence of Emperor Francis of Austria and discovers that those presumably in command had little or no interest in what really occurred to those fighting and dying on their behalf. The questions he is asked by the Emperor are completely trivial; no opening is provided him "to give an accurate description, just as he had it ready in his head," and he realizes that
the "sole aim" of the Emperor was to put a certain number of questions. "The answers to these questions, as was only too evident, could have no interest for him." Much the same point is made about those supposedly in command, like Alexander I and Napoleon, who are so far removed from the reality of battle that they have no control over the result. Tolstoy is particularly concerned to undermine the reputation of Napoleon and does so in numerous scenes that display him as an ordinary mortal, extremely self-confident and erroneously convinced that he had complete mastery of the situation. Nothing astonishes him more than the Russian refusal to reply to his overtures for peace after capturing Moscow.
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