Finally, War and Peace

War and Peace x 2

Well, I did not see this coming. I’m going to start reading War and Peace tomorrow.

War and Peace has been on my TBR list for years. Decades, really. Longer than some of my friends have been alive. 

How did this come about?

After Jenny of Reading Envy announced her year of Russian reading a couple months ago, I’ve been eyeing the copy of War and Peace on my shelf. I quickly advanced to the talking to myself phase of whether or not this was the year I would finally read it.

Yes, it would be, I finally decided. In the summer. A safe six months from now.

But then I told myself to be real. If the book is on your mind now, why not read it now? Some days I eyed the book, other days I tried to ignore it.

And then my friend Colleen mentioned War and Peace on social media. I took the book off the shelf on Saturday night. It felt a little wild and reckless.

Buddy Fitzwilliam with War & Peace

Sitting there with the book in my hands, I asked myself if I would regret not reading War and Peace when I’m on my death bed. Yes, there’s a strong chance that I would regret it. And then: would I read War and Peace on my death bed? No, definitely not. I’ll only read women writers on my death bed. 

Still wavering on whether or not to read War and Peace now, I turned to the “hive mind” (a term I don’t really like, but it’s the current lingo) and created a poll on Instagram.

Thirty-six people responded.

  • Yes = 22 votes, 60%
  • No = 14 votes, 40%

Thanks to everyone who voted. These results reflect my emotional state about picking up such an intense novel at the start of a new semester. I am feeling that the time is now more than not. There’s also the enthusiastic energy around Jenny’s #ReadingEnvyRussia . . .

So, I’m doing a buddy read with Colleen.

The edition that’s been sitting on my shelf is the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation. I bought it the week it was released in 2007. There was a lot of buzz around the publication of this translation. (Sometimes I still miss working in a bookstore.)

While looking into the various translations, I came across several recommendations that first-time War and Peace readers should go with the Anthony Briggs translation. One reason is that while the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation is praised for its beautiful language, it also keeps the French text in the main body and provides the English translation in footnotes. As I don’t read French and am easily distracted under the best of circumstances, I figured I’d be better off removing this known obstacle.

I now have the Briggs Penguin Classics paperback edition sitting on my desk. It is 1,400 pages and 2.5″ thick. I’m more excited than intimidated at this point, and can’t wait to get started.

11 comments

  1. Now that you decided, I’ll be nothing but supportive and a little jealous. Maybe it was the translation. I tried the P and V twice. If you have luck with Briggs I might make it my big Summer Book! Maybe third time is the charm!

    • Haha, thanks, Kate! It’ll be nice to have the P and V to compare some passages here and there. I’m a believer in the third time. It took me three tries to get into Middlemarch and I ended up loving it when it finally stuck.

  2. I started reading it on January 1 and plan to read one chapter a day until the end of the year. I have tried this previously, but this time I’m showing my progress every day on GoodReads. I’ve asked people to help keep my responsible. So far, so good and one atta girl from a friend saying how proud she is of me!

  3. I had noticed that you had switched to a different translation of War and Peace and wondered why. I am going to stick with the Pavear translation as I loved their translation of Anna Karenina.

  4. Good luck. I read this novel over 40 years ago and loved it. But am rereading with this challenge. Will I still love it. I have really enjoyed kindling through a sample to the end of Part One. About 3000 words. Was not sure at first but am now invested in the characters again and the war mongering build up!

  5. I read it with a group, Chapter-a-Day, a few years ago and I managed to finish it. I am glad I read it. I used everything I could find online to help me make my way through it and it did take me a year, but, yes, on my death bed I will smile, happy I read War and Peace.

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