by Leo Tolstoy, Translated from the Russian by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
Wow! This one took me over four months to read. I wasn’t sure whether I would ever get through it. The issue wasn’t that it was so long; my primary problem was that I could only read about two or three pages before falling asleep.
Some individuals have stated that reading War and Peace totally changed their lives. In my case, I think the only change I have undergone is that I am one third of a year older and my estimation of the great Leo Tolstoy is somewhat diminished. I recall that I tried reading Anna Karinana when I was about 21 years old and made it about two-thirds of the way through it. I was somewhat ashamed that I never finished it. Now I think I can understand why.
Tolstoy puposely positioned War and Peace and neither a novel nor a history, nor even an historical novel. He states that he just wanted to write “the truth.” The problem lies in that he positioned the great events of 1812 against the lives of a some characters who seem like actors on the stage. They are not very engaging individuals and their roles in the book just don’t seem very important. In addition, they often seem to undergo major transformations as a result of a conversation or encounter with another individual or event. Tolstoy’s selection of characters seems pretty shallow as a result.
Tolstoy weaves his philosophy of limited free will throughout the book and the idea that individuals’ decisions don’t make much difference. A problem lies in the fact that he repeats these assertions over and over. The final epilogue is a dissertation on free will versus “necessity” (after the characters just fade from the scene) in which he repeats himself again and again as he argues his case. Boring, boring, boring, if not plainly absurd.
Well, I read it and now I can say I have accomplished this feat. I just wish I had gotten more out of it and had enjoyed it a heck of a lot more.