Friday, 22 July 2011

War & Peace - The Review

So. I have now finished War & Peace. All 1358 pages.

To describe it as a novel is a bit false. There is in fact quite a lot of the book given over to discussion of the nature of warfare, the nature of the Russian-Napoleonic wars, the nature of leadership in warfare, and the nature of the free will of Man. Much of this was no doubt relevant when the book was written in the 19th century, but given the much changed nature of warfare in the latter part of the twentieth and start of the twenty first century I feel it is now superfluous outside of the historical context.

Tolstoy certainly pulls no punches in his analysis of historical figures and the historians who judge their 'Greatness'. His fundamental argument being that the decisions of 'Great' leaders have little to do with the course of warfare.

The story itself includes certain assumptions of knowledge that would no doubt have been fine for those living in Russia within the living memory of the Napoleonic wars, but for the rest of us require quite a lot of concentration to fathom.

All things being equal I can't help but feel that outwith the context of 19th Century Russia the same book could be rewritten to about a third of the length without diminishing the story, and removing quite a lot of the discussion relating to the will of man and so forth.

I'm willing to be open to the suggestion that it has lost something in the translation, there were the odd paragraphs that just plain didn't make sense...

Ultimately for 'Western' consumption a rewritten abridged version would probably be feasible, rather than a straight translation. Some things that are explained over the course of a chapter, could be just as enlightening in the form of a paragraph.

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