Monday, June 01, 2009

Lord Tolstoy of Realistica

My friend Don Brown on War and Peace: "What makes Tolstoy the lord of realist fiction is that he knows that what 'everyone' feels is what convention dictates they feel, but that what each individual feels is what their own natures dictate."

I've been looking at War and Peace as my epic for this summer (after the Aeneid last summer), and Don happens to be reading it, too, which definitely makes me much more likely to choose it!


Donald Brown said...

Hey, glad to hear you might be reading it too. Last summer I was reading Musil and discussing it with a friend in New Haven; so far I'm on my own with the Count.

Andrew Shields said...

I've actually pretty much decided to do it. I had the book in my hand the other day at the local English bookstore, but the paper quality was not great. Thin paper to keep the book from being too thick, I guess. So I'll probably just give in now and go for the thin paper.

I liked your comment about how clear everything is in Tolstoy; that was one of my principal reactions to "Anna Karenina" (as far as the reading experience is concerned), by the same translators, too.

Donald Brown said...

Yeah, those two have been out to do all the major canonical Russian stuff. I've read their trans. of three of Dostoyevsky's big four, but not their Anna K. I've got their trans of short novels by Chekhov and want to read their version of Dead Souls. I like that these new versions are appearing because it makes reading or re-reading the Russians seem more 'contemporary'; otherwise, old novels just seem to languish on my shelf.

JforJames said...

I read Isaih Berlin's essay "The Hedgehog and The Fox" this past summer and was wholly taken by the thesis and his affection for Tolstoy's world-view.

Tolstoy, Berlin says, wanted to be a 'hedgehog', wanted to see one organizing principle of human existence, but in the end Tolstoy's nature was inquisitive, delving into the nuances of human nature, seeing both its holiness and its folly, the 'fox'.

Andrew Shields said...

Don, I want the Chekhov, too. I did not know they had done that.

JforJames, Tolstoy definitely has globalizing desires, but it is his details that are overwhelming. I'm thinking of Levin mowing hay in Anna Karenina.