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?