It just released yesterday (10/16/07). Will take about a couple of weeks to read through. However, this couple does an excellent job, and I have high hopes for this translation. Avoid the recent translation by Anthony Briggs. His personal touch(s) garner irritation and are not true to the original.
Although i have not read it (yet) my father had several times and claimed the penguin classics edition to be an excellent translation, i can not comment any further than that. Though i do know that when my aunt switched translations to the (better) penguin version she claimed the difference was significant. No idea what version she had however. This is the penguin version War and Peace (Penguin Classics)
I am currently reading the modern library's version translated by Constance Garnett. I have heard that Constance Garnett is an excellent translator and the modern library always offers high quality texts.
Nobody has said this yet, so I will. Tolstoy wrote in an unpretentious style which other Russians found a little crude -- sort of like Theodore Dreiser or Stephen King. As a result, he's not so very hard to translate. I've read the Garnett and the Maude translations, and a hundred pages of this most recent one. They're all good; this latest one certainly isn't hard to understand, and it's closer to Tolstoy in a few ways, like reproducing all his French in French. But WAR AND PEACE is good no matter what version you read. The old Heritage Club two-volume edition of the Maude translation is easy to hold and read, has beautiful illustrations and good maps, and a good list of characters at the beginning. The recent translation is printed in a bulky and cheap version (perfect binding, hardcovers coated in paper, rather than cloth). Arguments about which translation is best are kind of silly where either Tolstoy or Dostoevsky is concerned. Great stylists like Turgenev come across much worse in translation, and NOBODY's translation of Turgenev or Pushkin seems really good.
I think both Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky were, in fact, great stylists.. Turgenev was more western influenced - yet there is something in the truly Russian nature of Tolstoy, in particular, that for me puts him on a short list of the greatest literary minds and probably the best of the novelists of his era... He may have wrote in a simple style at times, but the metaphoric complexity and the sensitivity to characters, environment, and emotion were only benefited by this concise style.. While most of the translations 'are good' I think a lot of the translators of the past like garnett, maude, Briggs, etc.. have tried to add something to the writing - tried to make it more western - which neglects the strength of the writing itself.. mind you their translations do read very well and are, without a doubt, completely valid - but what has excited many people about pevear and volokhonsky is their absolute respect for the original source.. And while evaluating two editions side by side it might not seem that a lot of changes or variations have been made.. over the course of 1200 or so pages it does make a difference..
I'm almost done reading them all (12 English translations, counting Bromfield -- I've read 9 so far.)
And so, since this "Which one should I read?" question arises so frequently, I've posted a "Guide" here on Amazon entitled "So You Want to Read 'War and Peace'?" which I hope will help folks out. It can be accessed by clicking on my name (in blue) which will take you to my profile -- from there you can access my Guides and Listmania Lists.
In my opinion, Maude and Garnett destroy P/V. I don't get P/V -- I have not really enjoyed their translations as much. I think they're all hype. I am very intrigued to read the Dole, if I can find a copy. Thanks Patrick for your reviews of all the translations.
You are quite welcome. I got my copy of Dole (a single volume edition) for about 20 bucks but that was a real deal -- it's rareish but you can find one here and there. Sometimes "Bookfinder" (search for the site thru Google) has a good deal on it.
Dole if you want the flavor of 19th century Russia. He was only 20 years removed from the first publication. Garnett for the American style, with edges of the sandwich cut off. Briggs for British people. Pevear for those who speak French. Maude may be the most popular, and the Inner Sanctum edition of 1942 has no equal graphically.