Read on for the long answer, comparing four of the best translations of War and Peace … Isaac Babel Garrett’s translation of War and Peace is in the public domain, so it’s the version you’ll probably get if you download a free copy.
She hired a secretary who would read the Russian text to her aloud, and she would dictate back the English translation. The Severe and Volokhonsky translation is a common choice to pick up in bookshops, and it is serviceable.
But I struggle to read it, and I feel it loses the magic of other translations, like Anthony Briggs’s. The Maude's knew Tolstoy well, spent a long time living in Moscow, and spoke impeccable Russian.
The Maude translation used to be more clunky, and it was criticized for including anglicized character names. My older and battered edition of War and Peace is Penguin’s earlier paperback, with a portrait of a Russian princess on the front cover.
With any of the translations on this list, read the first chapter to see how you get on with the writing style before purchasing. “The picture of everything that people consider to be their happiness and greatness, their sorrow and their humiliation, is complete.
From IN Strabo’s review of War and Peace, Zara, January 1870. I started Tolstoy Therapy back in 2012 to share my healing journey through anxiety and PTSD with books.
The team of Richard Severe and Larissa Volokhonsky became famous because of the Oprah's Book Club selection of their Anna Karenina in 2004, while earning snipes from academics for the stiff literalness of their many Russian translations. All translators agree that Tolstoy writes his own special Russian, bold and clear, yet full of deliberate repetitions of particular words and phrases.
For instance, instead of trimming and polishing his sentences into artistic units, he left them plain and lively; if they looked too slick, he kinked and roughed them up. Severe and Volokhonsky are certainly good and careful; they also offer useful notes, chapter summaries and biographical entries on the featured nonfictional Russian and French military leaders of 1805-1812.
He didn't fuss about proofreading it or compiling definitive editions; he let his friends, editors and wife make executive decisions about cuts and, for instance, the free use of French in dialogue. Neither the popular Russian edition nor Broomfield provides notes about how and when the manuscripts are being soldered together, and there are at least two jarring instances where the draft seems out of order (see, for example, Part VI, Chapters 1-2).
Everyone will find something disconcerting in the rough draft and also perhaps something strangely pleasing about seeing famous characters in deleted scenes or acting unlike themselves. For instance, Tolstoy develops substantial backstory and scenes for the rogue Molotov and allows us to accompany Nikolai Rostov as he loses his virginity in a wartime brothel.
(Compare this delightful scene to Tolstoy's later teeny tweaking of it, in Severe and Volokhonsky's translation : “Natasha jumped up barefoot and, snatching her slippers, ran to her room. The draft is, not surprisingly, sketchy in parts, and we see Tolstoy rushing through sections that he would later develop into memorable and long scenes.
His famous arguments about war and history in the rough draft are much more personal and modest (and, to my taste, more engaging). One of the best commentators on this novel, Gary Saul Mormon (in “Hidden in Plain View” (Stanford University Press, 1987)), is so appreciative of the linguistic dances by the bilingual aristocrats that he makes me feel guilty for preferring the draft's absence of French (which makes up more than 2 percent of the language in the traditional version), but I really don't miss the French at all.
Find out more about one of our most recommended books by reading the expert commentary about War and Peace below. At night, I stayed awake in the hut where we were staying to find out what happened next by the light of a small lamp, long after everyone else had gone to sleep and trying my best not to disturb anyone.” Read more... “One of the key questions that Tolstoy asks in the appendix is the central question of War and Peace : how can we explain the fact that, on orders, millions of people go out and kill one another, when they know that killing another human being is morally wrong?” Read more... “The reason I chose War and Peace is that it is the greatest novel of all time and I still think it is even after reading it five times…. As a novelist, when you begin to write in this era it is like the elephant in the room, especially if you love it as much as I do.
It’s a demotic theory of history, though not necessarily a socialist view.” Read more... “One doesn’t have to invent the bicycle, there is one: it’s War and Peace. It’s about how Russia won the Napoleonic wars, and moved into the first row of nations who dealt with European history.
Tolstoy, War and Peace Lucy on January 17, 2014, My well-worn copy of War and Peace. However, there were a few points I decided to leave for another post, including: side-by-side comparisons of the two translations and an investigation into whether Briggs is actually the translator to blame. I wish I could speak Russian and read War and Peace in all its original glory, but alas that won’t be happening any time soon.
However, non-Russian speakers like myself can easily compare translations side-by-side in order to think a little more about the original content and the various ways of interpreting it in English. I know I could bring other translations into the equation, but for this post I’ll stick to Briggs and P&V.
I’ll introduce you to my copy of War and Peace, translated by the wonderful Anthony Briggs. The old oak, quite transformed, spreading out a canopy of juicy, dark greenery, basked, barely swaying, in the rays of the evening sun.
Juicy green leaves without branches broke through the stiff, hundred-year-old bark, and it was impossible to believe that this old fellow had produced them. ‘But where was it?’ As he wondered, he glanced across left and, unconsciously, without recognizing it, began to admire the very tree he was looking for.
The old oak was completely transformed, now spreading out a canopy of lush dark foliage and stirring gently as it wallowed in the evening sunshine. Succulent young leaves with no twigs had burst straight through the hard bark of a hundred years; it was almost impossible that this old fellow should have grown them.
‘Yes, it’s the same oak,’ thought Prince Andrei, and suddenly a causeless springtime feeling of joy and renewal came over him. ‘No, life isn’t over at the age of thirty-one,’ Prince Andrei suddenly decided definitively, immutably.
The “British isms” and the flowing writing are also reasons why I liked it (you can hate me for this), even if these weren’t part of the original and aren’t necessarily accurate. I started Tolstoy Therapy back in 2012 to share my healing journey through anxiety and PTSD with books.
Chapter: (p.87) 5 Translation and Communication Source: Cultures of Diplomacy and Literary Writing in the Early Modern World Author(s): Publisher: Oxford University Press DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198835691.003.0005 It focuses in particular on works written or translated by Edward Holy, James Maybe, Bernardino de Mendoza, and Justus Lipids.
As tokens of exchange between different communities, the texts that this chapter surveys helped to build up symbolic capital for self-representation vis-à-vis the originals whose materials they were appropriating, constructing a common identity (political, religious, linguistic, or otherwise) that relied on the dialectical confrontation with an ‘other’. Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service.
Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter. “Well, Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the Bonaparte.
It was in July 1805, and the speaker was the well-known Anna Pavlova Shear, maid of honor and favorite of the Empress Mary Fedora. With these words she greeted Prince Vasiliy Keratin, a man of high rank and importance, who was the first to arrive at her reception.
He had just entered, wearing an embroidered court uniform, knee breeches, and shoes, and had stars on his breast and a serene expression on his flat face. He spoke in that refined French in which our grandfathers not only spoke but thought, and with the gentle, patronizing intonation natural to a man of importance who had grown old in society and at court.
He went up to Anna Pavlova, kissed her hand, presenting to her his bald, scented, and shining head, and complacently seated himself on the sofa. Set your friend's mind at rest,” said he without altering his tone, beneath the politeness and affected sympathy of which indifference and even irony could be discerned.
They have decided that Bonaparte has burnt his boats, and I believe that we are ready to burn ours.” Prince Vasiliy always spoke languidly, like an actor repeating a stale part.
Anna Pavlova Shear on the contrary, despite her forty years, overflowed with animation and impulsiveness. The subdued smile which, though it did not suit her faded features, always played round her lips expressed, as in a spoiled child, a continual consciousness of her charming defect, which she neither wished, nor could, nor considered it necessary, to correct.
In the midst of a conversation on political matters Anna Pavlova burst out: Our gracious sovereign recognizes his high vocation and will be true to it.
England with her commercial spirit will not and cannot understand the Emperor Alexander's loftiness of soul. She wanted to find, and still seeks, some secret motive in our actions.
The English have not understood and cannot understand the self-abnegation of our Emperor who wants nothing for himself, but only desires the good of mankind. Prussia has always declared that Bonaparte is invincible, and that all Europe is powerless before him.... And I don't believe a word that Harden burg says, or Horowitz either.
I have faith only in God and the lofty destiny of our adored monarch. “I think,” said the prince with a smile, “that if you had been sent instead of our dear Wintzingerode you would have captured the King of Prussia's consent by assault.
Prince Vasiliy wished to obtain this post for his son, but others were trying through the Dowager Empress Mary Fedora to secure it for the baron. Anna Pavlova almost closed her eyes to indicate that neither she nor anyone else had a right to criticize what the Empress desired or was pleased with.
“Baron Funk has been recommended to the Dowager Empress by her sister,” was all she said, in a dry and mournful tone. As she named the Empress, Anna Pavlova's face suddenly assumed an expression of profound and sincere devotion and respect mingled with sadness, and this occurred every time she mentioned her illustrious patroness.
“I often think,” she continued after a short pause, drawing nearer to the prince and smiling amiably at him as if to show that political and social topics were ended and the time had come for intimate conversation- “I often think how unfairly sometimes the joys of life are distributed. I don't like him,” she added in a tone admitting of no rejoinder and raising her eyebrows.
Between ourselves” (and her face assumed its melancholy expression), “he was mentioned at Her Majesty's, and you were pitied....” The prince answered nothing, but she looked at him significantly, awaiting a reply.
He said this smiling in a way more natural and animated than usual, so that the wrinkles round his mouth very clearly revealed something unexpectedly coarse and unpleasant. “I am your faithful slave and to you alone I can confess that my children are the bane of my life.
“They say old maids have a mania for matchmaking, and though I don't feel that weakness in myself as yet, I know a little person who is very unhappy with her father. Prince Vasiliy did not reply, though, with the quickness of memory and perception befitting a man of the world, he indicated by a movement of the head that he was considering this information.
He is the well-known Prince Polanski who had to retire from the army under the late Emperor, and was nicknamed 'the King of Prussia.' “Listen, dear Annette,” said the prince, suddenly taking Anna Pavlova's hand and for some reason drawing it downwards.
“Arrange that affair for me and I shall always be your most devoted slave- safe with an f, as a village elder of mine writes in his reports. And with the familiarity and easy grace peculiar to him, he raised the maid of honor's hand to his lips, kissed it, and swung it to and fro as he lay back in his armchair, looking in another direction.
“Attended,” said Anna Pavlova, reflecting, “I'll speak to Life, young Polanski's wife, this very evening, and perhaps the thing can be arranged.