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War and Peace (Penguin Classics, Deluxe Edition) Paperback – Deckle Edge, November 28, 2006
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“There remains the greatest of all novelists—for what else can we call the author of War and Peace?” —Virginia Woolf
From the Back Cover
"The best translation so far of Tolstoys masterpiece into English."
Robert A. Maguire, professor emeritus of Russian studies, Columbia University
"In Tolstoys work part of the translators difficulty lies in conveying not only the simplicity but the subtlety of the books scale and effect. . . . Briggs has rendered both with a particular exactness and a vigorous precision not to be found, I think, in any previous translation."
John Bayley, author of Elegy for Iris
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
If War and Peace was translated word-for-word into English, the book would be quite awkward. Many of the other reviewers need to take a chill-pill and remember that the only way to have a "true" reading of this book is to read it in Russian. Now that would be a mammoth task indeed!
Buy the Pevear Translation if you can, it is a better read!