War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace (Pre-reform Russian: «Война и миръ», Voyna i mir) is a novel by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy, first published in 1869. The work is epic in scale and is regarded as one of the most important works of world literature. It is considered as Tolstoy’s finest literary achievement, along with his other major prose work, Anna Karenina (1873–1877).
War and Peace delineates in graphic detail events surrounding the French invasion of Russia, and the impact of the Napoleonic era on Tsarist society, as seen through the eyes of five Russian aristocratic families. Portions of an earlier version of the novel, then known as The Year 1805, were serialized in the magazine The Russian Messenger between 1865 and 1867. The novel was first published in its entirety in 1869. Newsweek in 2009 ranked it first in its list of the Top 100 Books. In 2003, the novel was listed at number 20 on the BBC‘s survey The Big Read.
Tolstoy himself, somewhat enigmatically, said of War and Peace that it was “not a novel, even less is it a poem, and still less a historical chronicle”. Large sections of the work, especially in the later chapters, are philosophical discussion rather than narrative. He went on to elaborate that the best Russian literature does not conform to standard norms and hence hesitated to call War and Peace a novel. (Instead, Tolstoy regarded Anna Karenina as his first true novel.)
War and Peace is well known as being one of the longest novels ever written, though not the longest. It is actually the seventh longest novel ever written in a Latin or Cyrillic based alphabet and is subdivided into four books or volumes, each with sub parts containing many chapters.
Tolstoy came up with the title, and some of his themes, from an 1861 work of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: La Guerre et la Paix (‘War and Peace’ in French). Tolstoy had served in the Crimean War and written a series of short stories and novellas featuring scenes of war.
He began writing War and Peace in the year that he finally married and settled down at his country estate. The first half of the book was written under the name “1805”.
During the writing of the second half, he read widely and acknowledged Schopenhauer as one of his main inspirations. However, Tolstoy developed his own views of history and the role of the individual within it.
The first draft of War and Peace was completed in 1863. In 1865, the periodical Russkiy Vestnik published the first part of this early version under the title 1805. In the following year, it published more of the same early version. Tolstoy was dissatisfied with this version, although he allowed several parts of it to be published with a different ending in 1867, still under the same title “1805”. He heavily rewrote the entire novel between 1866 and 1869. Tolstoy’s wife, Sophia Tolstaya, copied as many as seven separate complete manuscripts by hand before Tolstoy considered it again ready for publication. The version that was published in Russkiy Vestnik had a very different ending from the version eventually published under the title War and Peace in 1869.
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