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114 of 126 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The latest in a very rewarding trend
This excellent new translation continues the trend to retranslate the monuments of fiction. From Magic Mountain to Man without Qualities, from Don Quixote to Madame Bovary, this movement proves again that great art is timeless, but interpretaion changes. In this way translation can be likened to the way two conductors can approach say, Mozart. It is still Mozart. It is...
Published on February 20, 2006 by David A. Heintz

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85 of 98 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wait for the Pevear translation, if you can!
I am about one quarter through the Briggs version and I have had it! It would not be possible for a translation to be more parochially (even jingoistically) British. It has kept me running to my dictionaries, only to find that the words are not even listed in my Merriam-Webster. Only the Oxford has been somewhat helpful with the "Britishisms". Briggs claims the Maude...
Published on July 2, 2006 by rater25


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114 of 126 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The latest in a very rewarding trend, February 20, 2006
This review is from: War and Peace (Hardcover)
This excellent new translation continues the trend to retranslate the monuments of fiction. From Magic Mountain to Man without Qualities, from Don Quixote to Madame Bovary, this movement proves again that great art is timeless, but interpretaion changes. In this way translation can be likened to the way two conductors can approach say, Mozart. It is still Mozart. It is always Mozart. But these are two interpretations.

Further, just as Mozart sounds better on a state of the art stereo system (or at concert), the binding, layout, and paper selection can enhance the reading experience. In this case Viking has done a superb job. The paper even smells great!

There is, finally, amother interpretation: that of age, and experience. I first read all of these books in my 'teens and 'twenties. I loved them then, but what did I know of life, or art? I am now sixty. The new translations give me an excuse, really a mandate, to reread them, and I am better for it.

You will be too. Spending an evening with this marvelous translation of War and Peace is vastly more rewarding than reading anything on the bestseller lists, or, dare I say it, watching American Idol.

As for me, I will wrap up Tolstoy this week, and move to book two of In Search of Lost Time (new translation.) Maybe I will finish Proust before I am seventy!

Note to Amazon: perhaps you could develop a section on your web site for these new translations, so we know what is available and what is coming.
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56 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Crystal-Clear Translation, February 3, 2006
By 
Brady Kelso (Ramona, California) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: War and Peace (Hardcover)
I'm thrilled with the new translation of Tolstoy's War and Peace. While I have grown up with the Garnett and Maude translations, I am pleased by the clear, smooth style of this new version, especially in the use of dialogue by the soldiers and the conversations in general. The publishers have also given us a clean type style and the pages have wide gutters for reading ease. It's a huge edition of over 1400 pages, but it's easy to hold and read. Long live Leo Tolstoy!
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, but Penguin/Viking needs to rethink the one-volume format, January 31, 2007
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M. J. Newhouse "Philoctetes" (Winchester, MA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: War and Peace (Hardcover)
This is a lovely new translation of Tolstoy's great work. It reads beautifully, although I must note that it is not tremendously better than other first-rate translations that are already available, e.g., the mellifluous translation by Rosemary Edmonds or even the time-tested translation by Louise and Aylmer Maude. I give it five stars because it is such a pleasure to read. However, Penguin and other publishers need to rethink how they produce a book of this heft. Penguin used to issue War and Peace in two volumes. They should go back to that practice. For the serious, dedicated reader, a book of this huge size and weight is a horrible inconvenience. It is simply impossible to carry around and read when one can--which is essential if one is a serious reader. Second, Penguin and other publishers should rethink having notes at the end of the book. New computer technology makes it easy to put notes at the bottom of the page. This would have two great advantages. First, it would increase readers' pleasure and build up ther loyalty to the publisher. For example, I have the 1938 two-volume edition of the Maudes' translation that was re-issued by the Heritage Press. The notes are at the bottom of the page and this makes reading so much easier. (As opposed to having to turn to the end of the vast Briggs volume or any other single-volume version.) Second, putting notes at the bottom of the page would force the editors to be succinct and (hopefully) to use notes only for those things that the educated reader might really want to know. In short, placing notes at the bottom of the page, where there is only limited space, would make the notes better in my view and more helpful.
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85 of 98 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wait for the Pevear translation, if you can!, July 2, 2006
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This review is from: War and Peace (Hardcover)
I am about one quarter through the Briggs version and I have had it! It would not be possible for a translation to be more parochially (even jingoistically) British. It has kept me running to my dictionaries, only to find that the words are not even listed in my Merriam-Webster. Only the Oxford has been somewhat helpful with the "Britishisms". Briggs claims the Maude translation was archaic. But when was the last time you said "o'er yonder" as he does? A Russian-speaking acquaintance assures me that the translation of the narrative sections is generally accurate. But the dialogue! Wretched cockney slang for the troops ("matey", "bloke", "'av at im" and such). And Tolstoy's French is translated without any notation. So we have no idea when or why a character slips into French. And yet, French and German characters spik wis zee accent. I wonder that he didn't have all the main characters speak with a Russian accent. A literally intolerable read. I can only think that the other reviewers here just skimmed a few pages.

I will be switching to the corrected Maude translation as published by Norton. Richard Peaver has informed me that the translation he is working on with his wife will be published by Knopf, hopefully in October of 2007. Based on their previous work (never less than HIGHLY respectable), that should be the version to read.

A note on the actual book: This huge tome weighs at least four pounds and the pages are rigidly bound in glue. It's a struggle to deal with, even in your most comfortable armchair. The British edition is half the size and yet has quite a readable typeface. Best in this respect is the Everyman's Library edition. The original Maude translation is divided into three separate, portable volumes. The sewn bindings open flat for easy reading.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Briggs translation: complete, unabridged, and superbly rendered, March 21, 2008
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This review is from: War and Peace (Hardcover)
This review of the Briggs translation of "War and Peace" is broken down into two segments, a Descriptive Summary and an Evaluative Summary. If you're already very familiar with the story, you may wish to skip directly to the latter facet of my review which is essentially the critique of this particular volume/translation.

DESCRIPTIVE SUMMARY:

In 1805, Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Austria to expand his European empire. Russia, being an ally of Austria, stood with their brethren against the infamous Emperor. Napoleon prevailed and a treaty was ultimately signed at Tilsit. In 1812, Napoleon invaded Russia, again in an effort to expand his empire. The end result of this tragic war was that Napoleon's army of about 600,000 soldiers was reduced to roughly 60,000 men as the defamed Emperor raced from Moscow (which he had taken), back across the frozen Russian tundra in his carriage (leaving his troops behind to fend for themselves) for Paris. That encapsulizes the military aspect of this work.

But the more intricate story involves both the activities and the peccadillos of, primarily, three Russian families of nobility: The Rostovs, the Bolkonskys, and the Bezukovs. The continual thorn of "The Antichrist," Napoleon, really just provides the wallpaper for this story of romance, riches, desolation, love, jealousy, hatred, retribution, joy, naiivety, stupidity and so much more. Tolstoy has woven an incredibly intricate web that interconnects these noble families, the wars, and the common Russian people to a degree that would seem incomprehensible to achieve -- but Tolstoy perseveres with superb clarity and great insight to the human psyche. His characters are timeless and the reader who has any social experience whatever will immediately connect with them all.

In his Epilogue, Tolstoy yields us a shrewd dissertation on the behavior of large organizations, much of it by way of analogy. It's actually an oblique, often sarcastic, commentary on the lunacy of government activities and the madness of their wars.

"War and Peace" is a fictional, lengthy novel, based upon historical fact.

EVALUATIVE SUMMARY:

Anthony Briggs, the translator of this edition, is a former Professor of Russian at the University of Birmingham, (Edgbaston, 26,000 students), coupled with the fact that he has previously translated many other literary works from their original Russian language. Overall, his 2005 translation is a fluid, easy-to-read version of "War and Peace".

Having previously read the stalwart Maude translation (twice) and the new (2007) Pevear-Volokhonsky translation I feel compelled to state that that I'm very pleased and impressed with Briggs' smooth, modern-language translation, (which is also devoid of any anachronistic or modern "buzzwords"), and, I'm even more copasetic with the book's straightforward layout. The main text of the Viking Adult version is nicely supplemented with 4 detailed maps, a list of principals (both fictional and non-fictional), and 2 commentaries, all at the rear of the text. There is NO introduction by the translator and it's a direct read -- rendered entirely in English with almost no footnotes to bother with. There are historically-oriented endnotes but, as they are at the finale of the work, I found them useful, yet not distracting. The book is almost exactly the same size and weight as the P-V translation, (3.8 pounds, pretty hefty), with a beautiful white sewn binding and with a white dust jacket. (Penguin offers two alternative bindings of the Briggs translation as well).

One of the few early complaints I heard on Briggs is that he "British-ized" the dialogue, using words like "mate" as soldiers address one another... so it's not written in "American" English. This fact, too, probably doomed him a bit in pecuniary terms, at least in the USA. But that is a very small caveat and I was not in the least distracted by this actuality. As Briggs pointed out in his commentary, (paraphrasing), he had to choose an English dialect to translate it TO and, since he himself was English, that was the vernacular which he chose to utilize. This makes total sense to me and the actual instances of these "British-izations" of the language are actually few and far between.

Some others have criticized Briggs for eliminating the French entries (Briggs renders the entire work, unabridged, in English), thus eliminating the need for footnotes that we see in other translations which yield the English translation of the French script. Briggs does, however, shrewdly let us know, (by working it into the text), when a particular dialogue or letter was originally written by Tolstoy in French where this fact is either relevant or important for the reader to know. Honestly, the "straight English" text is much of the beauty of this volume for the casual reader because it's notably less distracting. Those who wish to read "War and Peace" for some academic or scholarly purpose would be better served by reading either the Maude or P-V translations since both maintain the French entries, with English translations in the footnotes, the French being roughly two percent of the entire book.

In summary, if you are looking for a complete and unabridged, easy-to-read version of "War and Peace" which features modern language, the Briggs translation would be a fine choice.
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79 of 95 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wait for the Pevear translation if you can!, May 7, 2007
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July 2, 2006
I am about one quarter through the Briggs version and I have had it! It would not be possible for a translation to be more parochially (even jingoistically) British. It has kept me running to my dictionaries, only to find that the words are not even listed in my Merriam-Webster. Only the Oxford has been somewhat helpful with the "Britishisms". Briggs claims the Maude translation was archaic. But when was the last time you said "o'er yonder" as he does? I have read that the translation of the narrative sections is generally accurate. But the dialogue! Wretched cockney slang for the troops ("matey", "bloke", "'av at im" and such). And Tolstoy's French is translated without any notation. So we have no idea when or why a character slips into French. And yet, French and German characters spik wis zee accent. I wonder that he didn't have all the main characters speak with a Russian accent. A literally intolerable read. I can only think that the other reviewers here just skimmed a few pages.

I will be switching to the corrected Maude translation as published by Norton. Richard Peaver has informed me that the translation he is working on with his wife will be published by Knopf, hopefully in October of 2007. Based on their previous work (never less than HIGHLY respectable), that should be the version to read.

A note on the actual book (i.e., the hardcover): This huge tome weighs at least four pounds and the pages are rigidly bound in glue. It's a struggle to deal with, even in your most comfortable armchair. The British edition is half the size and yet has quite a readable typeface. Best in this respect is the Everyman's Library edition. The original Maude translation is divided into three separate, portable volumes. The sewn bindings open flat for easy reading.

Postscript - July, 2011

I ended up reading the Pevear translation when it came out, but found it quite disappointing. It was a highly respectful translation, but a rather awkward read. Apparently, they tried to replicate the word order of the Russian. After comparing every translation in print, I would now recommend two: Ann Dunnigan's for Signet is a fluent read and even the Peavers have praised its accuracy. Unfortunately, she usually translates the French in the main body of the text; the NEW Oxford revision of the Maude's translation. The editors corrected minor inaccuracies, updated Victorian archaisms, restored the French and added an excellent set of notes.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting! Beautiful translation in modern, flowing English!, February 10, 2006
By 
Amazon Customer (San Francisco Bay Area, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: War and Peace (Hardcover)
Just want to write a short review. I agree with the other reviewer, Brady. I bought the book a couple of days ago and have been reading it non-stop! All the passages in the other translations that left me scratching my head have all come alive! I've always wondered, for example, why Tolstoy would describe Andrey and Boris as "looking more manly"--now I know he means they look "more mature"! KUDOS to Anthony Briggs!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Anthony Briggs' edition is the best choice for first time readers., January 11, 2013
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This review is from: War and Peace (Hardcover)
Most who are deciding on a modern translation of War and Peace have probably narrowed it down to the Briggs and Pevear/Volokhonsky version. This review mostly serves to compare the two.

I have great respect for Pevear and Volokhonsky's rigorously faithful approach to Dostoevsky's nervous style of writing. But I didn't want a literal translation of this literary behemoth with all French passages intact. It seemed like overkill, so I ordered the Viking edition of Briggs' translation. I already have the P+V edition of Tolstoy's short stories and Anna Karenina, so, keeping in mind what I know of their treatment of Tolstoy, and having compared their War and Peace on Kindle, I'd recommend first time readers to go with Briggs over the P+V version.

First off, be suspicious of those who claim P+V's translations of everything will be superior to any other translator ever. That's simply not true - it's just marketing hype obscuring the reality behind their success. The reality is that, when given the choice, P+V choose a mimicking of the Russian syntax and slightly more stilted, though accurate, word choice to fit the meaning in Russian. It makes every novel they translate sound different, and in many cases, more "faithful." As I said, it's a huge advantage to their work on Dostoevsky.

This sets them apart from most other translators, but it's entirely a matter of taste as to whether it's a more worthy or authentic method of translation, because all P+V translations just take the English a few steps further toward Russian. Anthony Briggs instead prefers to stay rooted in sentences that sound completely authentic in English. Having made it 115 pages in to the end of Part 1 Volume 1 over the course of two days, I can say that it's been a completely comfortable read, more so than any P+V translation I've read, which typically take me a bit longer as I think over why they made the word choices they did. The overall story as translated by Briggs is very clear, and it's easy to keep track of all the different and distinct characters. And as War and Peace is meant not as a regular novel or exercise in style, but as an overall view of history and humanity, missing the forest for the trees due to a translation that tries too hard would be missing Tolstoy's point completely. I'm afraid this would happen with P+V's translation if I switched over to it wholesale. It's very accurate, and reads a bit unnaturally as a result. Briggs' sentences flow like Tolstoy just wrote it yesterday.

Keep in mind that the Viking hardcover's binding is not sewn (as every Everyman book is) but glued, which requires a bit more effort to keep open and is probably less durable in the long run. But besides this minor flaw, the white cover design is beautifully minimalistic, and the print and pages are just fine and easy to read.

In the end, for the average Russian literature enthusiast, reading Pevear and Volokhonsky's doggedly academic and faithful version the first time around is like trying to do a no-oxygen-tank hike up Mt. Everest your first time up - it's not necessary and you probably won't make it the whole way. So save their edition for your second pass, when you're familiar with the story and you want a more challenging, faithful interpretation. If you're a first time reader, get Anthony Briggs' edition, breathe easy, and you'll be happy you did when you reach the top.

Update 11/23/2013: just finished War and Peace after many months, and it was every bit worth the hype. Everything I already wrote does hold true from start to finish.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A virtually flawless novel, well translated but marred by typos, July 11, 2006
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This review is from: War and Peace (Hardcover)
War and Peace, Tolstoy's 2nd greatest novel after Anna Karenina, can be read as a series of shorter novels so as not to intimidate the reader: the 4 volumes are each around 300 pages, and it ends with 100 pages in (not 1 but) 2 epilogues. But make no mistake; it is all of one piece, a single glorious work of art. The greatness lies largely in the way that Tolstoy tells such a large story with such patience and clarity of vision from start to finish. There are so many characters, so much heavenly scenery, a multitude of dynamic relationships described over the course of the novel, and above all, many lifetime's worth of human emotions; but from start to finish not one of these creations of Tolstoy's is written falsely, inconsistently, or one-dimensionally.

If you are passionately interested in the philosphy of history but have never read it in truly masterful fiction, you must read this book. Or if you are just intrigued by the idea of a literary narrative which shines from the far away vista of the here and now, and deftly skims both the river of time and the surface of unspoken conscious thought, without dallying into the murky depths of the subconcious, then you also must read it. It's greatest quality is how few if any passages are less than perfectly written so as to create a clear and delicate feeling within the reader, with grace and precision. It does not have as much profundity within the story as I had thought it might, and Tolstoy had to leave the narrative in order to make any major point about the nature of human knowledge and behavior (which he does in several asides which amount to essays on the flaws of history.) But this is not really a problem as long as you don't expect the book to probe deeper and deeper into human nature by way of storytelling, since within the story proper, it stays at the same level of human thought on page 10 as it does 1,200, except through those essays. And knowing this, you may get even more out of reading it than did I.

The Briggs translation is a fairly easy read, though clearly it's written for the U.K. market (the use of slang is not like anything I've heard here in the USA) and the copy I bought contained a major typo in the first chapter summary, and several minor ones in the latter part of the book. This is only a problem if you paid $25 for the book like I did, and tend to feel ripped off by such careless mistakes with such a carefully crafted work of art.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Briggs vs The Pevears, December 13, 2012
Briggs's translation of "War and Peace" published in 2005 places it in direct competition with the Pevears' 2007 version. Compared with the Pevears, his translation came across as a bit modernized and at times even anachronistic (in the dialogue for instance). But compared with P & V's rendition his is many times the clearer version, and for all its modernity I should think his is the superior version. Take the beginning of Book I Chapter 2, where Briggs has "All the important people in St Petersburg society were there, varying enormously in age and character for all their shared social background." Pevear and Volokhonsky have: "The high nobility of Petersburg came, people quite diverse in age and character, but alike in the society they live in", clearly a literal translation, which sounds almost automaton in its direct literalness. The P & V version begs two questions: what is meant by "the high nobility", and what "alike in the society they live in" meant. Briggs's rendition is much clearer if not as precise. P & V tries to get away with literal mindedness, translating literally without understanding the context, whereas Briggs at least takes a stab at the meaning (and does get it right in this instance.)

Another example concerns Lise's "moustache" -- Briggs: "Her pretty little upper lip, slightly shadowed with down, barely covered her teeth, but that made it all the prettier when it rose up and lovelier still when it curled down to meet the lower lip." P & V have: "Her pretty upper lip with its barely visible black moustache was too short for her teeth, but the more sweetly did it open and still more sweetly did it sometimes stretch and close on the upper one." Dunnigan: "Her pretty little upper lip with a barely perceptible down, was too short for her teeth, and charming as it was when lifted, it was even more charming when drawn down to meet her upper lip." All three versions meant different things. For Briggs the down "barely" covered Lise's teeth, while in the latter two it was the presence of the down which is "barely visible/perceptible". Briggs also said it was lovelier when meeting the "lower lip" instead of the "upper one" (which Dunnigan and the Pevears maintain). The second half of Pevears' translation is awkward, in garbled grammar.

In this particular instance it is clear that Tolstoy did not write in a Russian that is easy to understand, as Briggs has claimed in his afterword: all three of the translations state different things, and surely at least one must have erred in its interpretation. The instance of "black" moustache must have struck many readers -- again there are differing interpretations. Briggs and Dunnigan took the stance it meant "shadowed", whereas Pevear and Volokhonsky are adamant that it meant "black" and is used to describe Lise's (hideously worded) "moustache". Another confusion in P & V's version is in wondering how an upper lip (or moustache) can "open" (usually only mouths do, and only with upper and lower lips moving in opposite directions...)
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War and Peace
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (Hardcover - January 19, 2006)
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