51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling
Having not read War and Peace before, and being fluent in neither Russian nor French, I am not qualified to compare and contrast this translation with other translations. But coming to this great novel for the first time I found this version to be an immensely readable book and it was with great sadness that I finished it. While others might concentrate on the pros and...
Published on 8 Mar. 2008 by Carruthers
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I bought this as my bookshelf 'trophy' after reading it ...
I bought this as my bookshelf 'trophy' after reading it on Kindle. The small print and thin paper would make it difficult to read for the first time.
Published 27 days ago by londonlady
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51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling,
Having not read War and Peace before, and being fluent in neither Russian nor French, I am not qualified to compare and contrast this translation with other translations. But coming to this great novel for the first time I found this version to be an immensely readable book and it was with great sadness that I finished it. While others might concentrate on the pros and cons of this version against others, for those who have never read War and Peace before it is the story itself that is so fantastic. I was completely transported to Napoleonic times.
One comment on the translation itself though - in many places I found it mellifluous. 'Kapli kapali. Shyol tikhii govor. Loshadi zarzhali i podralis. Khrapel kto-to.' - 'Drops dripped. Quiet talk went on. Horses neighed and scuffed. Someone snored.' Fantastic.
And as others have noted the hardback is a wonderfully tactile object. Well done Clays and thank you Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Savour the masterpiece drop by drop,
This is the novel of all novels but it is not an easy read. Unlike an other reviewer, I find this translation to be excellent. The French text is translated in footnotes on every page and you soon get used to this approach. (It gives the historical flavour of how the aristocracy at the time spoke French with varying degrees of fluency.) We are all so used to instantly consumable fiction that we must retrain ourselves as readers to digest this monumental novel in bitesize pieces. Both the Notes and the Historical Index are a useful addition. I am sure that other translations are also admirable but you cannot go wrong with this.
42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful translation - and a beautiful object,
Don't listen Dr. Clifford - this is a wonderful translation, faithful and fluent. I don't know the Briggs (whose translation is incidentally not exactly 'new'), but the Pevear is quite fabulous.
In criticising repetition, Dr Clifford has entirely missed the point that the repetitions are Tolstoy's, and quite deliberate. It is previous translators who have sought to 'improve' on the original by adding their own variations. Clifford makes the same old error. Pevear does not.
I am afraid I find Dr Clfford's claim that Pevear's English is poor incomprehensible, as if said of a different translation altogether. This is a wonderfully accessible translation of a nineteenth century novel, which also manages to feel true to its period and to avoid anacronisms.
The use of French in the text is also true to the original. In his own editions/revisions, this is how Tolstoy started and what he came back to. Pevear includes full translations in footnotes (of a perfectly legible size). Nor, incidentally, is the French especially taxing. Why is the French there ? Because that's how Russians of a certain milieu spoke (and, some would say, thought and dreamed) in the Napoleonic era. Why has Pevear not removed it ? Why on earth would he want to ?
But don't take my word for it; read Orlando Figes online on the Pevear translation in the New York Review of Books - the same Orlando Figes who wrote the foreword to the Briggs edition.
Finally - the Pevear is still in hardback, and is a fittingly beautiful and pleasing object in its own right.
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Translation in a Pleasing Binding,
This is the third translation I have read - the Rosemary Edmonds and the Briggs translations being the previous two - and it is clearly the best. You are captured from the start by the crystalline clarity of the prose and Pevear's annotations are helpful and inobtrusive. Ignore Doctor Rollo!
I would also make similar point to the previous reviewer - the hardback book is a lovely object to look at and hold. If you're going to have something in your hands for a couple of months, better to make it something that is good looking!
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pevear and Volokhonsky,
First of all, the book itself. This is a nicely-bound hardback, with very clear black type on pure white paper - the clarity of the type and the whiteness of the paper both being important considerations when there are twelve hundred pages to get through! The biographical notes, chapter summaries and footnotes at the back are informative and accessible.
Now, the translation. I don't read Russian, so I can only judge it by how well it reads in English rather than by the degree of its fidelity to the original, so let's be clear: ninety-nine percent of this book is a joy to read. However, if you're prone to writing marginalia, this book will have you reaching for the pencil on quite a few occasions. I'm not talking about Americanisms (such as "fall" for "autumn") which are fine by me, but the doubtful choice of words here and there. For instance, when Rostov confronts a wolf close by some trees, we find:
> ...the wolf shook himself and made a move towards the timber which would save him.
Wood, trees, copse and forest all make sense in this context; "timber" does not. It sounds like the wolf has spotted a pile of firewood.
> "Ah, you cursed floor-scrubbers! Clean, fresh, as if from a promenade, not like us sinful army folk," Rostov said.
Other translations have "dandies" instead of "floor-scrubbers", which makes a lot more sense. Another page has Boris piling his checkers in a pyramid, but after he has knocked them to the floor, they have become "chessmen".
Pevear and Volokhonsky sometimes get their clauses in a muddle and the results are unclear:
> "One moment, one moment, don't come in, papa!" she cried to her father, who had opened the door, still under the gauze of her skirt, which covered her whole face.
(Natasha has a door under her skirt?)
> When Nikolai and his wife came looking for Pierre, he was in the nursery, holding his awakened nursling son on his enormous right palm, dandling him. A merry smile lingered on his broad face with its open, toothless mouth.
(Who has no teeth - Pierre or the baby?)
Some lines make almost no sense, though this may be Tolstoy's fault:
> Pfuel was of small stature, very thin, but broad-boned, of coarse, robust build, with broad hips and sharp shoulder blades.
All at once? Similarly, there are odd lapses in grammar and agreement. Three examples:
> For us descendants - who are not historians...
> This sort of guests and members sat in their known, habitual places, and met together in known, habitual circles.
> In their attitude towards him, doubt could still be felt of who he was...
Of course these are exceptions and in a book this long it would be surprising if there weren't a few slips. Nevertheless, I feel an obligation to lay them out for the benefit of those trying to decide which translation of War and Peace to buy. I repeat - this is an excellent read for the most part and God only knows how much work went into it. Pevear and Volokhonsky are to be congratulated for scaling the mountain, but all the same, I did find the duff lines hard to ignore, so here is a final batch of oddities:
> A tallow candle stood on a baluster, melting in the wind.
> The entering man was wearing dark blue tailcoat, a cross on his neck, and a star on the left side of his chest.
> "Grounds of personal ambition, perhaps," Speransky quietly put in his word.
> Pierre sniffed silently, looking at her.
> He saw not her marble beauty, which made one with her gown, he saw and sensed all the loveliness of her body, which was merely covered by clothes.
> "Snort...snort..." snorted Prince Nikolai Andreich.
> His eyes were looking at the entering women.
> The husband, a short, stoop-shouldered man in a civil uniform with wheel-shaped side-whiskers and smooth temples...
> Princess Marya and Natasha, as always, came together in the bedroom.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent to read, but some curiosities,
It seems presumptuous to write anything about War and Peace. The writing of such a book towers over the formidable task of translating it; and both of these dwarf the not inconsiderable undertaking of reading it.
But the forbidding size of the book contrasts with the intimacy of Tolstoy's writing - right from the start we are drawn in to the conversation of the salon, rather than a sweep of great events, the book being ultimately about people. I had concerns about being able to remember who was who, my concerns not being relieved by the translators' brief introduction to the nature of Russian names; but the list of principal characters is clear, and an easy and in my case well-used reference. Perhaps I was helped by the memory of the excellent BBC radio dramatisation of the early 1970s, now apparently lost. The maps of the battlefields are useful; a map of the larger European area would have helped too, to give some idea of the distances involved.
I was drawn to read this translation by Simon Schama's enthusiastic praise on BBC Radio 4; I would endorse it, almost completely. The prose is clear, if a little stilted at times; but for a portrayal of people speaking in a different country two hundred years ago I would not expect the same kind of speech that I use now. Characters retain their own voices, even the annoying Denisov; Tolstoy is given a clearly recognisable voice, addressing the reader directly.
My only proviso is that with such a huge linguistic undertaking, a few lexical disasters stand out, perhaps so noticeable because they are so few. It is odd that having constructed such a complex and extensive translation coherently and consistently, the publishers' editorial proofreading manages to leave me feeling that I have been reading the work of someone for whom English is a learnt rather than a lived language.
The most startling of these sore thumbs is the description of Helene as "totally undressed" in her box at the opera. Others include "fill the bill", "homey", and "dearie" for a huntsman addressing his dog. These do not spoil the book; rather they leave it unfinished. Or maybe the translators suffered from the same problem as Natasha Rostov and Napoleon Bonaparte; the pull to do the wrong thing at a critical moment was just too strong.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tolstoy - A World of His Own,
To read a book written by Leo Tolstoy is a "through the looking glass experience". You step back in time and are enveloped in the cold chill of a Russian winter with real characters drawn by an artistic master.
I have the American edition of this latest War And Peace (Pevear and Volokhonsky)and I must say the English edition (which I shall soon purchase) is beautiful edition, a joy to have,no doubt.
The generous use of French has stretched my schoolgirl education to the enth degree and short of buying a French Dictionary...does anyone know if there is a translation of the French included somewhere in the book that I've missed ?
Beyond that and the obvious weight of this tomb, we are priveleged to have one of the greatest books ever written in our possession - so enjoy it,one and all.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enrich your life with a great book which is also a treat to read,
I have just finished reading it, and cannot recommend it too highly.
First of all, Tolstoy's work: it is famously long because it is epic not just in its geographical and historical sweep but, perhaps more importantly, in the distance it covers between the public world of grand political events and the inner world of individual minds and souls. It is as if Tolstoy is trying to capture the essence of human experience by showing how those worlds relate rather than highlighting one at the expense of the other. In the process he gives us an intimacy with all his main characters that allows us to share not just their hopes and fears, but their own puzzlement with the details of experience that people notice but perhaps never mention even to their nearest and dearest. In short, it is fascinatingly real, and, surprisingly to me, had some of the qualities of a good soap opera: you have your favourite characters and storylines which change as events unfold.
Second, the translation: I have tried to read a couple of previous translations, and never got hooked. This one is perfect. The language is elegant without being stuffy, never self-conscious and never trendy. The introduction by the translators helps, showing their passion for what they are doing and their commitment to creating something that somehow sits, as they say, 'between' the original Russian and our English. The physical book itself is beautiful: it's nice to have a design on the hard cover rather than having a paper cover that will soon get worn.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From an inexperienced reviewer,
I first read War and Peace in my teens and thoroughly enjoyed my first taste of Russian literature. My daughter bought me this version after hearing me praise this book whilst discussing favourite books. Having convinced my daughter that this was a truly outstanding book, she decided to read the Briggs translation and then went on to read this translation. We both agreed that this translation is the best translation that we have read to date. I wouldn't presume to provide a critical review but I will say that if you have never read Tolstoy, this is the translation that will draw you in and hook you on Russian literature!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Practically the dictionary definition of "Epic",
This review is from: War and Peace (Vintage Classics) (Kindle Edition)
Epic, Sweeping, Monumental - all hardly do justice to describe this piece of literature.
Aside from the cliché about it being long (How many times have i heard someone say, "keep it brief, i don't want "War & Peace" just a summary please") and the sheer size of the book (admittedly not an issue on an eReader), there's little to be scared of in picking this book up.
Quite simply one of the best books i have ever read.
Thoroughly recommend it
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War and Peace (Vintage Classics) by Leo Tolstoy (Paperback - 6 Aug. 2009)