The Art of War & Peace

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Reading War and Peace: The Effects of Great Art on an Ordinary Life

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The Art of War and Peace

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Create a commenting name to join the debate Submit. Tolstoy thus has the commitment to rich, ordinary detail that the Annales school of history made famous a hundred years later. But he does not believe that any narrative can describe a historical event successfully. He believes that history has laws, and he believes in divine predestination. Reason expresses the laws of necessity, he writes.

Yet consciousness expresses the essence of freedom. There are considerable contradictions here. One is that the great historiographical skeptic is also a great sermonizing bully, not only telling us what we must think but clearly writing a form of history himself. A theodicy is begun, and then fudged.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

In this respect, Thomas Hardy, say, was a bolder novelist. Again, Napoleon is the interesting challenge: Tolstoy must make him vital without making him seem too vital, and thus too free. He must remain a deluded slave of historical forces beyond his control. Literary translators tend to divide into what one could call originalists and activists. Any decent translator must be a bit of both. Pevear and Volokhonsky, who are justly celebrated for their translations of Dostoyevsky, are closer to the originalist camp than to the activist.

Translation is not a transfer of meaning from one language to another, Pevear writes, but a dialogue between two languages. On the way, in a forest, he sees a great, gnarled oak, surrounded by trees already succumbing to spring.


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The whole day had been hot, there was a thunderstorm gathering somewhere, but only a small cloud had sent a sprinkle over the dust of the road and the juicy leaves. The left side of the woods was dark, in the shade; the right side, wet, glossy, sparkled in the sun, barely swayed by the wind. Everything was in flower; nightingales throbbed and trilled, now near, now far. The old oak, quite transformed, spreading out a canopy of juicy, dark greenery, basked, barely swaying, in the rays of the evening sun.