I know we’re all going to get a bit confused with the numbering, but I shall just refer to this as the 4th book, and I’ll let those of you with your own translations work out whether that’s Volume 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.  For the record, I’m still reading two versions.  A one-book Maude translation, which splits W&P into three volumes, and a four-book Garnett translation which is, obviously, in four volumes.

I love the Garnett because each of them is hardbound, and relatively small, so they’re really easy to carry on the train, etc.  And they have much larger print than the Wordsworth Maude, so they’re really nice on the eyes.  That said, I’m not a huge fan of the Garnett translation.

I should say, now that I’ve read two translations simultaneously for a couple of months, most of this will depend on how fast you were reading War and Peace.  If you were burning through, then I think almost any translation would do, because the incidents are obviously all the same and you’re effectively getting the same story.

But if you’re doing what we’re doing, and smelling the roses as we go, then there’s an awful lot to be said for reading a nice translation that reads really well.  So, for instance, in the Maude, we get beautiful little details like Denisov’s speech impediment.  I’m not sure how it works in Russian, but hearing him call Nikolai “Wostov!” is far more amusing and tells you something about Denisov’s character that Garnett’s “Rostov!” does not.  (Even though she mentions in passing at some stage that he has a lisp.)

Anyway, on to 4.1.  Nikolai comes home, and we are reminded that there is actually a home life miles away from all the fighting, and that there is a world that does not know exactly the horrors of war.  You may find that everything feels a bit different coming here after the battle of Austerlitz as well.  When we started the book, it was a bit Jane Austenish, what with all the arranged marriages, inheritance squabbles, etc.

But now that we’ve seen that you really can get killed out there on the battlefield, we realise why Nikolai’s family miss him so much.  And, of course, beyond the battles, there are other dilemmas to be worked out.  Sonya still adores Nikolai, but has decided to leave him free to nick off if he wants to do other stuff.

Which he does seem to want to . . .

In today’s world, Sonya’s girlfriends would give her a copy of the book He’s Not That Into You and sort her out, but here we’re kind of set up for a bit of teenage heartbreak . . . oh well . . . we’ll all find out how it turns out, won’t we?

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2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 4.1 – Returning Home

  1. Well, Matt, had I waited a few minutes, I would have seen that you have now in fact sorted out my confusion about where we’re supposed to be up to. So thanks for that and now just ignore that bit in my last post altogether!

    I will, I think, remain an unwavering advocate of the Pevear translation – it’s very poetic but also very accurate and so, in that sense, sometimes replicates some of the idiosyncracies of Tolstoy’s writing style, which I like. IT’s biggest drawback, I guess, is that it is quite heavy – one volume and in hard back, but it at least can double up as a dumbell.

    Pevear also captures Deniov’s speech impediment and, in fact, does it a little more in the same way that Tolstoy does it in Russian. In Pevear, “Rostov” is prounced “Ghrostov” by Denisov. I the Russia, it is “G’ostov” – kind of a guttral grunt instead of an “r”.

    Anyway, I imagine that in any translation this chapter would be a sheer delight. After all the heavy pathos of the last few chapters here we are presented with this delightful picture of a family over-the-moon with excitement – right down to the little details of them competing to sit next to him or bring him the tea at dinner, or little Petya getting all excited at the sabres. Wonderful stuff!

  2. Well, this is my second time around for Book 4 . . . as you know, I’m the nut who is counting characters . . .
    I’m so pleased to see the boys home in this first chapter and to see everyone relating to each other.
    I’m surprised at how the girls have matured – still a coupla’ gigglers, but not so much the little buggers running around underfoot like they were at Natasha’s birthday party.
    Funny how she burned her arm to prove her love for her friend – we used to do that in early high school – always getting told off for it. I still have the trace of a boy’s name that I etched out with a pen nib – John.
    Here are the people being added to my present count of 405 characters . . .
    Dmitri –
    (Might have got counted before – dunno’) But we’ll let ‘im live for now.
    “Dmitri,” said Rostov to his valet on the box, “those lights are in our house, aren’t they?”
    ………………………………..
    Duport – The Dancer
    “Not seen Duport- the famous dancer? Well then, you won’t understand. That’s what I’m up to.”
    ………………………………..
    Gwiska?
    “Hallo, Gwiska- my pipe!” came Vasili Denisov’s husky voice. “Wostov, get up!”
    ………………………………..
    Michael –
    Old Michael was asleep on the chest. Prokofy, the footman, who was so strong that he could lift the back of the carriage from behind, sat plaiting slippers out of cloth selvedges. He looked up at the opening door and his expression of sleepy indifference suddenly changed to one of delighted amazement.
    ………………………………….
    Prokofy the Footman –
    Old Michael was asleep on the chest. Prokofy, the footman, who was so strong that he could lift the back of the carriage from behind, sat plaiting slippers out of cloth selvedges. He looked up at the opening door and his expression of sleepy indifference suddenly changed to one of delighted amazement.
    ………………………………….
    Zakhar –
    “There’s the corner at the crossroads, where the cabman, Zakhar, has his stand, and there’s Zakhar himself and still the same horse!
    411

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