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Indeed, Tolstoy became quite critical of the superficiality of upper class Russians, as we can sense in his portraits of the Kuragin family in War and Peace. This period witnessed major debates between two intellectual groups in Russia: the Slavophiles, who believed Russian culture and institutions to be exceptional and superior to European culture, and the Westernizers, who believed that Russia needed to follow more liberal, Western modes of thought and government.

During this time, Russia was also undergoing a crisis of political thought, with a series of authoritarian tsars provoking liberal and radical intellectuals who demanded European constitutional rights—or even revolution—in Russia. Developing a reputation as a prophet of social thought, Tolstoy attracted disciples who came to his estate at Yasnaya Polyana seeking out his wisdom.

7 Reasons You Should Give 'War and Peace' A Chance | HuffPost

In , Tolstoy published a radical essay called What Is Art? Increasingly frustrated by the disparity between his personal moral philosophy and his wealth, and by his frequent quarrels with his wife, Tolstoy secretly left home in November , at the age of eighty-two. He fell ill with pneumonia during his travels and died several days later in a faraway railway station. Tolstoy was mourned by admirers and followers around the world, and to this day is regarded as one of the greatest novelists in history. To English-speaking readers, the names of the characters in War and Peace may be somewhat confusing, as there are a number of name-related conventions in Russian that do not exist in English.

Each Russian has a first name, a patronymic, and a surname. Characters in the novel frequently address each other in this formal manner, using both the first name and patronymic.


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When characters do not address each other formally, they may use informal nicknames, or diminutives. For instance, Nicholas is sometimes called Kolya the standard nickname for Nicholas or Nikolai ; Natasha is sometimes called Natalya her full name, for which Natasha is the diminutive. Furthermore, surnames in Russian take on both masculine and feminine forms.

7 Reasons You Should Give 'War and Peace' A Chance

Throughout his oeuvre, Hamid envisions an interconnected world in which East and West inevitably meet as a consequence of complicated histories of colonization and globalization. The dramas and love stories of individuals like Saeed and Nadia cannot be separated from these histories, even if, in their own lives, those histories are not necessarily preoccupations.

Until, that is, those histories erupt. When they do, people die.

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They do so often, unexpectedly and in violent circumstances. The reader, of course, must think about what would happen if her own normal life was suddenly, unexpectedly upended by war. Most likely, the reader, like Saeed and Nadia, would flee. They do so through the sudden, unexplained doors that appear throughout the city and that are portals to other places. While the city is unnamed, these sites of refuge are named — Greece, London, the United States.


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  • The novel implicitly asks these readers why doors should be closed to refugees, when those readers might become refugees one day? The doors can be manifestations of magic realism, fantasy or science fiction, or all three, but they simply stand in for the reality that refugees will try every door they can to get out.

    War and Peace is what the author wanted to and could express in the form in which it was expressed.

    Study Questions

    The six years Tolstoy toiled away on War and Peace taxed both his mind and body. Toward the end of the writing process, he developed migraines, which he often tried to work through but which would sometimes stop him in his tracks. After finishing the work, he came down with a severe case of the flu that left him feeling drained for weeks. The author took a prolonged hiatus from writing, focusing instead on learning Greek and building a schoolhouse for the children who lived at Yasnaya Polyana. Tolstoy was no stranger to war.

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    He served as an artillery officer during the Crimean War, where he witnessed the bloody orchestra of battle at places like Sevastopol. Tolstoy channeled his experiences into the battle sequences of War and Peace. The Battle of Borodino, in particular, which comprises more than 20 chapters of the book, is widely praised as the finest battle sequence ever written. Maybe it was all the time he spent with the story and all of its characters, or maybe the development of his sensibilities as an artist, but Tolstoy became disenchanted with his seminal work shortly after finishing it.

    He wrote to a friend that he hoped to never again write something as bloated as War and Peace. When American audiences think of grand, costly films, the likes of Gone with the Wind , Cleopatra , and Titanic typically come to mind. Filmed over six years—the same time it took Tolstoy to write the novel—and lasting six hours, the film supposedly had all the resources of the Soviet Union at its disposal.

    The movie, shown to audiences in two parts, was intended to bolster patriotism and to showcase the strength of the Soviet film industry.

    War and Peace

    In , Russian state television aired a unique live reading of War and Peace. Over the course of 60 hours, more than Russians from all over the world read the book in three-minute increments. One by one, readers from Washington, Paris, Beijing, Nepal and numerous other locations took their turn. Around , an office worker from Stafford, England, was browsing at a yard sale when he came across a print version of J. The auction for this recently discovered copy does not have a precise date yet, but will be later this month—when we can expect the man to walk away with a pretty penny.

    Upon hearing a report earlier this week that Warner Bros. Author J.


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