War and peace background information

To my knowledge, it has never been translated into English. What we find in other versions is the "thud" or "clang" of hoofs, and it is likely that I would have done something similar if Larissa had not brought me back to what Tolstoy actually wrote. His prose is full of such moments. Coming upon them and finding words for them in English has been one of the most rewarding aspects of our work. Here is a very different and rather amusing example of the search for fidelity. Ordering the menu, he insists that "grebeshki" be put in the "tortue. Going by my own taste, I decided to put scallops in the turtle soup.

This reading got as far as the first set of page proofs. Just then we met by chance at a dinner in Paris a woman who used to run a cooking school. We asked her which it should be. She, too, was puzzled. A few days later we received a long email from her.

‘Just 1,238 pages to go’: could you read War and Peace in a week?

She was happy to inform us that they came into fashion precisely around the time of the Napoleonic wars and were a key ingredient in turtle sauce. Thanks to Mme. Meunier, we were able to make the correction in the second set of proofs. But does such a small thing really matter? Well, it certaintly did to Tolstoy. What this seemingly trivial detail reveals is the extraordinary accuracy of his memory, even in the smallest things.

There is, for instance, a war between the French and Russian languages in War and Peace that mirrors the war between the French and Russian armies. But this precocious modernism is never word play for its own sake. It is always moved by passion. The world of War and Peace envelops you.

War and Peace — Productions — Royal Opera House

Over it all is that "infinite sky" that Prince Andrei discovers as he lies wounded on the field of Austerlitz. Read An Excerpt. Paperback —. Add to Cart. Also in Vintage Classics.

Also by Leo Tolstoy. Product Details. Inspired by Your Browsing History. Browse supplemental materials on the feature site: www. Related Articles. Looking for More Great Reads? Download Hi Res. His use of visual detail is often cinematic in scope, using the literary equivalents of panning, wide shots and close-ups.

These devices, while not exclusive to Tolstoy, are part of the new style of the novel that arose in the midth century and of which Tolstoy proved himself a master. The standard Russian text of War and Peace is divided into four books comprising fifteen parts and an epilogue in two parts. Roughly the first half is concerned strictly with the fictional characters, whereas the latter parts, as well as the second part of the epilogue, increasingly consist of essays about the nature of war, power, history , and historiography.

Tolstoy interspersed these essays into the story in a way that defies previous fictional convention. Certain abridged versions remove these essays entirely, while others, published even during Tolstoy's life, simply moved these essays into an appendix.

DISCUSSION/ANALYSIS OF LEO TOLSTOY'S WAR & PEACE

The novel is set 60 years before Tolstoy's day, but he had spoken with people who lived through the French invasion of Russia. He read all the standard histories available in Russian and French about the Napoleonic Wars and had read letters, journals, autobiographies and biographies of Napoleon and other key players of that era. There are approximately real persons named or referred to in War and Peace. He worked from primary source materials interviews and other documents , as well as from history books, philosophy texts and other historical novels.

Tolstoy was critical of standard history, especially military history , in War and Peace. He explains at the start of the novel's third volume his own views on how history ought to be written. His aim was to blur the line between fiction and history, to get closer to the truth, as he states in Volume II. Although the book is mainly in Russian, significant portions of dialogue are in French. It has been suggested [13] that the use of French is a deliberate literary device, to portray artifice while Russian emerges as a language of sincerity, honesty, and seriousness.

It could, however, also simply represent another element of the realistic style in which the book is written, since French was the common language of the Russian aristocracy at the time. The use of French diminishes as the book progresses. It is suggested that this is to demonstrate Russia freeing itself from foreign cultural domination, [13] and to show that a once-friendly nation has turned into an enemy. By midway through the book, several of the Russian aristocracy are eager to find Russian tutors for themselves.

The novel spans the period to The era of Catherine the Great was still fresh in the minds of older people. Catherine had made French the language of her royal court. The historical context of the novel begins with the execution of Louis Antoine, Duke of Enghien in , while Russia is ruled by Alexander I during the Napoleonic Wars. Tolstoy also references the Great Comet of just before the French invasion of Russia. Tolstoy then uses the Battle of Ostrovno and the Battle of Shevardino Redoubt in his novel, before the occupation of Moscow and the subsequent fire.

The final battle cited is the Battle of Berezina , after which the characters move onward with rebuilding Moscow and their lives.


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The novel tells the story of five families—the Bezukhovs, the Bolkonskys, the Rostovs, the Kuragins, and the Drubetskoys. In addition, several real-life historical characters such as Napoleon and Prince Mikhail Kutuzov play a prominent part in the book. Many of Tolstoy's characters were based on real people. His grandparents and their friends were the models for many of the main characters; his great-grandparents would have been of the generation of Prince Vassily or Count Ilya Rostov.

War and Peace

Many of the main characters are introduced as they enter the salon. Pierre Pyotr Kirilovich Bezukhov is the illegitimate son of a wealthy count , who is dying after a series of strokes. Pierre is about to become embroiled in a struggle for his inheritance. Educated abroad at his father's expense following his mother's death, Pierre is kindhearted but socially awkward, and finds it difficult to integrate into Petersburg society.

He is disillusioned with Petersburg society and with married life, feeling that his wife is empty and superficial, he comes to hate her and all women, expressing patently misogynistic views to Pierre when the two are alone. Pierre doesn't quite know what to do with this, and is made uncomfortable witnessing the marital discord. Andrei tells Pierre he has decided to become aide-de-camp to Prince Mikhail Ilarionovich Kutuzov in the coming war against Napoleon in order to escape a life he can't stand. The plot moves to Moscow , Russia's former capital, contrasting its provincial, more Russian ways to the more European society of Saint Petersburg.

The Rostov family are introduced. Count Ilya Andreyevich Rostov and Countess Natalya Rostova are an affectionate couple but forever worried about their disordered finances. They have four children. Thirteen-year-old Natasha Natalia Ilyinichna believes herself in love with Boris Drubetskoy, a young man who is about to join the army as an officer. Twenty-year-old Nikolai Ilyich pledges his love to Sonya Sofia Alexandrovna , his fifteen-year-old cousin, an orphan who has been brought up by the Rostovs.

The eldest child, Vera Ilyinichna, is cold and somewhat haughty but has a good prospective marriage in a Russian-German officer, Adolf Karlovich Berg. Petya Pyotr Ilyich at nine is the youngest; like his brother, he is impetuous and eager to join the army when of age. At Bald Hills, the Bolkonskys' country estate, Prince Andrei departs for war and leaves his terrified, pregnant wife Lise with his eccentric father Prince Nikolai Andreyevich and devoutly religious sister Maria Nikolayevna Bolkonskaya, who refuses to marry the son of a wealthy aristocrat on account of her devotion to her father and suspicion that the young man would be unfaithful to her.

The second part opens with descriptions of the impending Russian-French war preparations. Boris Drubetskoy introduces him to Prince Andrei, whom Rostov insults in a fit of impetuousness. He is deeply attracted by Tsar Alexander 's charisma. Nikolai gambles and socializes with his officer, Vasily Dmitrich Denisov, and befriends the ruthless and perhaps psychopathic Fyodor Ivanovich Dolokhov. Bolkonsky, Rostov and Denisov are involved in the disastrous Battle of Austerlitz , in which Prince Andrei is badly wounded as he attempts to rescue a Russian standard.

The Battle of Austerlitz is a major event in the book. As the battle is about to start, Prince Andrei thinks the approaching "day [will] be his Toulon , or his Arcola ", [17] references to Napoleon's early victories.

War and Peace: the 10 things you need to know (if you haven't actually read it)

Later in the battle, however, Andrei falls into enemy hands and even meets his hero, Napoleon. But his previous enthusiasm has been shattered; he no longer thinks much of Napoleon, "so petty did his hero with his paltry vanity and delight in victory appear, compared to that lofty, righteous and kindly sky which he had seen and comprehended". Book Two begins with Nikolai Rostov briefly returning on leave to Moscow accompanied by his friend Denisov, his officer from his Pavlograd Regiment.