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War and Peace Hardcover – January 19, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

British scholar Briggs unveils his lucid new translation of Tolstoy's masterpiece-the first in almost 40 years-to a slightly anxious audience, from first-timers who, balking at the amount of time required by this massive yet startlingly intricate work, want to ensure they are reading the best translation available, to purists who worry that clunky modern prose will replace the cadences of earlier translations. But these concerns melt away after the first 100 pages of this volume. Briggs's descriptions are crisper and the dialogue is sharper, with fewer "shall's," "shan't's" and "I say!'s" than the Garnett, Maude, or Edmonds translations, leaving readers free to enjoy the rich and complex plot, vivid characters and profound insights into war and the nature of power. There are some awkward spots: Briggs claims his earthy rendering of soldierly banter is more realistic than earlier, genteel translators', but it reads distractingly stagy: "Give 'im a right thumpin', we did." It's also a shame to have lost Tolstoy's use of French, not only in the mouths of his characters, but also in the essays, as when he plays with Napoleon's famous "sublime to the ridiculous" quote. Briggs will face competition next year when Pevear and Volokhonsky release their new translation, but for now, this is the most readable translation on the market.
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About the Author

Count Leo Tolstoy was born on September 9, 1828, in Yasnaya Polyana, Russia. Orphaned at nine, he was brought up by an elderly aunt and educated by French tutors until he matriculated at Kazan University in 1844. In 1847, he gave up his studies and, after several aimless years, volunteered for military duty in the army, serving as a junior officer in the Crimean War before retiring in 1857. In 1862, Tolstoy married Sophie Behrs, a marriage that was to become, for him, bitterly unhappy. His diary, started in 1847, was used for self-study and self-criticism; it served as the source from which he drew much of the material that appeared not only in his great novels War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877), but also in his shorter works. Seeking religious justification for his life, Tolstoy evolved a new Christianity based upon his own interpretation of the Gospels. Yasnaya Polyana became a mecca for his many converts At the age of eighty-two, while away from home, the writer suffered a break down in his health in Astapovo, Riazan, and he died there on November 20, 1910.

Anthony Briggs has written, translated, or edited twenty books in the fields of Russian and English literature.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1424 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (January 19, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067003469X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670034697
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 2.7 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,016,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David A. Heintz on February 20, 2006
Format: 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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: 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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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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