I have made the rather radical decision to just stick to reading one version of War and Peace for the duration of the financial year.  While it’s rather fun to compare the two versions, if I fall behind (as happened), it’s diabolical.  Especially on days with longer chapters.

And so, because I’ve read it before – much as I prefer it – I’ll put my Maude aside and finish my Garnett.  I will make sure that I check chapter numbers so none of us gets caught out, but other than that, I’ll stick to the one version.  Hopefully, the only people who will notice a difference is Rachel, who will have slightly more of her husband each day and myself.

But anyway – let’s get stuck into this chapter here.  In case you thought the wolf got off lightly, we have a fox that gets killed by hunting dogs and then used as a blunt instrument to bash someone with.  Followed by a hare that gets dismembered and its foot fed to a dog.

But still – what a great chapter, eh?  I read somewhere online by some reviewer for a newspaper in England somewhere that Anthony Briggs (who translated War and Peace just a couple of years before Pevear/Volkhonsky – it was sometime just in the last few years, I believe) wrote to this reviewer to say that if he really wanted to get into War and Peace, just skip over all beginning stuff and go straight to Book 7.  If you liked that, Briggs said, you’ll like all the rest.  I can’t find the particular article to link to, but the reason Briggs suggested that you should try this approach is that Book 7 contains the essence of what Tolstoy is all about.

Nothing in particular happens – the family goes wolf-hunting (and a few other frivolities that we’ll cover in the next week) – but it all feels familiar, comfortable.  Something we can easily identify with.

That may not be true for loving the fox hunt, but haven’t you ever felt that envy that someone has something you don’t?  To watch Nikolai, Ilagin and Uncle all desperately trying to show off their dogs is hilarious.  And the twist in the tale (which I won’t spoil) is classic.

In a plot sense, this chapter is completely redundant.  And it’s like Tolstoy, after Book 6 was so plot-heavy (setting up a romance, a time apart, etc) has decided to give us a book where nothing much happens at all.  But it will be an enjoyable nothing.  (It’s not just Tolstoy who decided this.  The Belgian creator of Tintin, Hergé, did exactly this same approach in one of Tintin’s very last adventures, The Castafiore Emerald.  Every page almost ends with a cliffhanger – but nothing of much consequence at all happens throughout the entire story.

There are times when it becomes about the journey rather than about the destination, and this is one of them.

In the meantime – for those of you who are getting a bit sick of War and Peace – here’s an amusing blog post by a guy who gave up without ever getting through Book 1.


6 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 7.6 – Comparing Dog Size

  1. Yes, probably doing just one translation at a time is wise – and I imagine that when child #2 arrives, even that much is going to be a challenge. I am determined for my next read to be basically the original Russian, but with my Russian language skills being as they are I somehow don’t think that I (or anyone, for that matter) could possibly live that long.

    The Briggs translation really is a goodie – and I think it’s now the one that Penguin uses instead of the Rosemary Edmonds version. I actually bought Briggs when I was about three-quarters through Maude, and swapped over – partly because I thought it was a better translation but partly, too, because the edition I hd came with a bookmark that had all the main characters on it. Very cool.

    Anyway, today’s chapter … which was for me another uncomfortable chapter to read, I must say, but, once again, I couldn’t help but get caught up in it, despite myself. Needless to say, I was barracking for the hare but, if the hare had to get caught, I’m glad that Uncle’s dog was the one to do it. I just knew Ilagin was talking a load of rot when he pretended that he wasn’t competitive – it’s almost always the people who tell you they’re not competitive who are the most competitive of all.

    The bit of this chapter which I really loved reading the most was the bit about Rugai, walking home so proudly afterwards. That’s exactly the look that my two little Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Ruslan and Lyudmila, get when they catch something. Of course, with them it’s usually just a piece of paper, or a bit of fluff, but the principle is the same.

  2. I don’t understand what you mean by the ‘duration of the FINANCIAL year’ . . . did you mean to say the CALENDAR year? ‘Cause I don’t understand what it would have to do with finances.
    I’m going to stick with the ‘Maude’ translation.
    About the ‘pride’ of animals after the hunt . . . I see my cat, after she’s properly put another critter in its place – she marches back into the apartment, her tail raised, then smugly sits down to view the intruder from the window.

    The cat we had before Skitter (Bobby McGee who lived to be 15) was a bit different – she’d step outside the door, pick a fight with another cat, by just puffing her fur up, to appear larger, make a few noises, then when the cat approached, she’d run back into the apartment, leaving us to chase her opponent off.

    We used to watch the swans a lot (mutes) and how they are the same way – they puff up their thousands of feathers, raise their wings, and hiss – then once they chase off the Canada Goose, or whoever has infringed on their territory, they stretch as tall as possible, do a terrific wing spread, then settle down to forget about it, and continue to groom their lovely bodies.

    Are we humans the same way? I think so, but we have no feathers or fur to extend – we have other methods of body language to let the world know ‘I sure told her off, eh?’


  3. Character count? Hmmm . . . lemme’ see . . .

    Ezra –

    “Yes, we must ride up…. Shall we both course it?” answered Nicholas, seeing in Erza and “Uncle’s” red Rugay two rivals he had never yet had a chance of pitting against his own borzois.

    Groom – Ilagin’s groom

    “But what is there in running across it like that?” said Ilagin’s groom.

    Huntsman . . .

    The huntsman standing in the hollow moved and loosed his borzois, and Nicholas saw a queer, short-legged red fox with a fine brush going hard across the field.

    Huntsmen (2)

    Two huntsmen galloped up to the dogs; one in a red cap, the other, a stranger, in a green coat.

    Hunt Servants (2) –

    Hardly had he passed an angle of the wood before a stout gentleman in a beaver cap came riding toward him on a handsome raven-black horse, accompanied by two hunt servants.


    And yes – now I know what ‘Uncle’s’ name is . . . “And you, Michael Nikanorovich?” he said, addressing “Uncle.”

  4. Hi Carly,

    Just to quickly answer regarding financial year – in Australia (I’m not sure what it’s like in Canada), there is the calendar year which runs from 1 January to 31 December, and then there is the financial year.

    The financial year is the year for tax purposes, basically, and it runs from 1 July through to 30 June. So if you’re filling out your tax return, you do it in the July-September time period for the previous 1 July through to 30 June.

    This reading project started on 1 July 2008 and will finish (unless I’ve done a serious miscount) on 30 June 2009, and will cover one financial year.

  5. Oh, I see what you mean – we here in Canada turn our tax claims in on the 30th of April of each year – if you’re doing it for business, well then it’s your ‘fiscal’ year.

    But financial? For the blog?

    I just got a blog on this site, this weekend – haven’t put anything on it yet – but they didn’t ask me for any money – are we supposed to pay them?

  6. Sorry, no, the financial year has nothing to do with me paying any money to WordPress (who host my blog). The only reason I have this War and Peace commentary running over the course of the financial year is because I first did the initial chapter count of War and Peace in June and realised that it would fit almost perfectly into a year.

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