Introduced by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
Preface by James Wood
Illustrated by Igor Karash
Tolstoy’s masterpiece, in the highly-acclaimed translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
‘If everyone made war only according to his own convictions, there would be no war’
Among the most influential novels of all time, Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace is set against the great political events surrounding Napoleon’s attempted invasion of Russia in 1812. Boasting over five hundred characters, the sprawling narrative focuses on the fortunes and struggles of five aristocratic families. Featuring both real and fictional protagonists, from lowly foot soldiers to Napoleon himself, Tolstoy weaves a literary and historical epic that has never been equaled.
‘The English-speaking world is indebted to these two magnificent translators ... for revealing more of [this masterpiece’s] hidden riches than any who have tried to translate the book before’
This edition features the highly acclaimed 2007 translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Much criticism has been levelled against previous attempts to ‘anglicise’ and ‘smooth’ Tolstoy’s often idiosyncratic prose. Here the translation remains as close as possible to the original language. Tolstoy’s tendency towards repetition, which, as critic and author James Wood writes in his new preface, he uses ‘almost liturgically, or psalmically’, was removed in earlier Victorian translations as it did not fit the mould of what was considered ‘good writing’. As Pevear states in his introduction, ‘We have tried to be true to Tolstoy’s rhetorical power, his sharp irony, and his astonishing delicacy.’
‘We are honored to have our translation of War and Peace appear in such a fine edition from The Folio Society. And we are especially pleased with the superb illustrations’
Igor Karash’s poignant illustrations, 15 in each volume, including two double-page spreads, often spill out of their margins. Much like the prose, the images are both intimate and sweeping, mirroring the expansive nature of Tolstoy’s history, and the individual’s place within it. This edition also features a striking binding design with the spines blocked in gold and coloured page tops and 30 colour illustrations by Igor Karash. It is a fine edition of one of the great masterpieces of world literature.
‘The attention to detail, printing quality, choice of binding materials, paper for both text and illustration pages, and the beautiful typographic layouts, elevated this project to a place I hadn't even hoped for. This edition is truly worthy of Leo Tolstoy’s timeless novel. Thank you Folio’
‘War and Peace is about everything that counts: love and battle, terror and desire. Life and death. It’s a book that you don’t just read, you live’
A sprawling social panorama, a brilliant work of historical philosophy, a masterpiece of Russian storytelling – Tolstoy’s magnum opus has always evaded classification. Homeric in tone and biblical in scope, it is unquestionably one of the most important books ever written. From the flash of a smile at a genteel Petersburg soirée to the sweeping arm of la grand armeé tugging at the very fabric of Europe, the details that Tolstoy draws on in his writing are as varied and boundless as Russia itself. As the journalist Isaac Babel commented after turning the last page, ‘If life could write, it would write like Tolstoy.’
Told predominantly through the lives of the Rostov and Bolkonsky families, and the naive aristocrat Pierre Bezukhov, the story spans the years 1805 to 1812, as Napoleon’s armies draw inexorably closer to the heart of Russia. Under the gathering darkness of war, Tolstoy brings to life some of literature’s richest characters: the impulsive, beguiling Natasha Rostov, the proud and ambitious Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, and the guileless Pierre Bezukhov, searching for spiritual fulfilment. This enthralling epic follows the interconnected marriages, affairs, heartbreaks and struggles of these very different aristocratic families, as Tolstoy uses the building blocks of strained partings and emotional reunions, deaths and loves, to shape his all-pervading masterpiece.
‘Magnificent ...War and Peace reaches a simplicity and gravitas unknown in Western literature’
The complexities of 19th-century Tsarist society are set against the chaos and terrors of war in a cinematic narrative that sweeps across the vistas of Austerlitz, Borodino’s bloody fields and the burning city of Moscow. Tolstoy’s descriptions, drawn from his own experience in the Crimean War, are chillingly real, and convey an astonishing level of detail, from the horrors of amputation to the panic and disbelief felt in the heat of the cavalry charge. As James Wood writes in his newly commissioned preface, Tolstoy aimed to ‘correct the “official” record … truth, you feel, is being battled for, with whatever literary weapons come to hand’. Tolstoy deftly weaves historical discourse with fictional prose, consistently subverting our traditional understanding of genre. The narrative is regularly interrupted by didactic essays and opinion pieces, Tolstoy placing himself at the centre of his account to examine how the events he draws on relate to a wider philosophical context. He enigmatically refused to refer to his work as a novel, ‘even less is it a poem, and still less a historical chronicle’.
Leo Tolstoy was born in Yasnaya Polyana, near Tula, in 1828. He studied law at Kazan and Petersburg universities before serving in the army in the 1850s. His first novel, Childhood, was published in 1852, followed by Sevastopol Sketches in 1855, inspired by his Crimean War experience. He published one novel per year until his return to his estate and marriage, in 1862, after which he began work on War and Peace (1869). This was followed by Anna Karenina (1877). The publication of A Confession in 1884 signalled a conversion, in which Tolstoy renounced possessions and espoused pacifism; his later essays and novels had a similar moral emphasis. He died in 1910.
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Review by anon on 9th Jan 2017
"Having read a well-known publishers paperback edition of War & Peace ten years ago and found it incredibly hard going and somewhat of a chore to finish, it was with some trepidation that I decided to ..." [read more]
Review by anon on 2nd Mar 2016
"The beautiful illustrations help you get through this novel a lot quicker than you would otherwise. Natasha lights up the page whenever she appears. I found the French a bit tedious, but mercifully it..." [read more]
Review by anon on 27th Nov 2014
"If like me you have always MEANT to read "War and Peace" but found it too daunting, please buy this edition. It is truly wonderful, a work of art in itself and with superb illustrations. Tolstoy is a ..." [read more]