Blog Post

Tolstoy Journal, January 2, 2017

So I read 18 pages of Tolstoi plus the front matter: an Editor’s Preface and an introduction. The first is by Dole and in it he says, “Not only have they [Tolstoi’s works] been translated from the original with the approval of the author, but especial pains have been take to give them full and complete revision.” I’m not sure Dole had permission from what I’ve read but I enjoyed read the first three chapters of War and Peace. Here is a quote from Dole (p. vi): “From either point of view it is remarkable; in the books written for Art’s sake, simply as novels, the ethical background is noticeable; in the later stores, written for the sake of the doctrine, the supreme art of the story-teller is no less manifest. He can rid himself of neither. In either case he holds his unique place as one of the greatest writers of all time.”

What struck me as I read the first three chapters is how smoothly Tolstoi tells his story. There are no seams showing. And he doesn’t just show, as writers are told these days, he tells a lot, he does both. He tells you how someone is with deft strokes then shows them and your feel as though, almost instantly, that you know them. He shows too how some men are concerned with ideas but women with relations. And is this a sort of Virgilian simile in an epic novel?

pp. 10-11  “Just as the proprietor of a cotton  mill, who has stationed his workmen at their places, walks up and down on his tour of inspection, and when he notices any spindle that has stopped, or that makes an unusually loud or creaking noise, hastens to it, and checks it or sets it going in its proper rote, even so Anna Pavlovna, as she walked up and down her drawing-room, came to some group that was silent, or that was talking too excitedly, and by a single word, or a slight transposition, set the talking machine in regular decorous running order again.”


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