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Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times Hardcover – May 20, 2014
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No other novel in world literature possesses the intimidating allure of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. It is the very Everest of fiction, and most readers need a sherpa. Andrew Kaufman has not only produced a perfect guide to the setting, characters, history, and background of this epic work, all skillfully interwoven with events in Tolstoy’s life; he has done so with zest and personality.
From the Inside Flap
Often hailed by critics as the greatest novel ever written, War and Peace, at 1500 pages, is also one of the most intimidating. Still, it is a perennial bestseller, with new editions appearing regularly--almost a century and a half after its first publication. So what does everyone find so irresistible in this novel about the Napoleonic wars?
A mirror of our times.
Beyond a rousing, unforgettable story, says Russian literature scholar Andrew D. Kaufman, Tolstoy's masterpiece can offer modern readers an urgent moral compass and a celebration of the deep joy of living. In Give War and Peace a Chance, his entertaining, thought-provoking, and accessible argument for why War and Peace is more relevant to readers now than ever, Kaufman argues compellingly that War and Peace is many things. It is a love story, a family saga, a war epic. But at its core it is a novel about human beings attempting to create a meaningful life for themselves in a country torn apart by war, social change, political intrigue, and spiritual confusion. Give War and Peace a Chance takes readers on a journey through War and Peace that reframes their very understanding of what it means to live through troubled times, and survive them.
Touching on a broad range of topics, from courage to romance, from parenting to death, Kaufman demonstrates how Tolstoy's wisdom can help us live fuller and more meaningful lives. An ideal companion to War and Peace, yet equally enjoyable to those who have never read a word of Tolstoy, Give War and Peace a Chance renders this greatest of masterpieces more approachable, relevant, and fun.
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In contrast to his subject, Kaufman keeps things succinct. This book has twelve short chapters, each dealing with one aspect of Tolstoyan wisdom as found in War and Peace: Plans, Imagination, Courage, Truth, among others. Each chapter is between 15 to 20 pages, but all are rich in insight and wisdom. Kaufman describes how War and Peace's characters deal with each other and with the gigantic historical movements in which they are caught up. While doing so he inspires his readers to recognize and evaluate how we ourselves deal with our own troubled times and lives. We also learn a lot about Tolstoy himself, so that this highly gifted but deeply troubled man, as well as his ever forbearing wife and family, comes back to life. Kaufman does the same thing for himself, providing little autobiographical snippets that show how important War and Peace has been in his own life and in the lives of his students, including some troubled youths at a correctional institute who found that Tolstoy has important things to say to them.
When I reread War and Peace (as I certainly will now that Kaufman has shown me so much) I will make sure to keep this book at my side as a guide and facilitator.
My particular favorite discussions were the final three on Death, Perseverance and Truth. The deaths of Andrei and Petya, the imprisonment and "enlightenment" of Pierre and the domestic life of the mature Pierre form the hearts of these chapters, respectively. One of the truths that Tolstoy demonstrates, observes Mr. Kaufman, is that real stories never end--not neatly. There are always loose ends, political currents and, above all, new lives to continue the tale.
I was sorry to come to the end of our visits.
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In this spirit, Kaufman crafts chapters titled after worldly concerns -- such as success, family, and death --...Read more