My book group is reading War and Peace. Really.
It is largely my fault - I'd read a review about a new translation of the Russian classic, celebrating how accessible it made Tolstoy and how close it was to his original prose style. I suggested it when group members were considering the 2008 book list and they took me up on it. I'm on about page 60 - only 1,100 or so to go...
In the meantime, there is a "wow" factor in even being able to say that I'm trying. Another book group member has taken it with her while traveling, and says it's a conversation-starter in airport waiting areas. It's clearly at the top of the heap of classical literature, iconic for its length and gravitas, a book that few tackle unless forced to by an English teacher at some point along the journey through formal education.
The story actually is interesting, but the Russian names and their various permutations are hard for me to follow. My confusion is not helped by the fact that two of the characters are Boris and Natasha; each time I encounter them I cannot escape the mental image of a like-named couple from Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons of my youth.
Some of the dialog is in French, which baffles me -- if these gifted translators bothered to export the text from Russian to English, why not go ahead and translate the French as well? -- but I get the fact that keeping the French in its original form helps identify characters from the Russian nobility. Still, having to stop every few paragraphs to check the English footnotes slows my progress.
But what's most annoying is Tolstoy's wordiness. He never fails to take 50 words to express what could be accomplished quite nicely in 15. And therein lies this realization: I am getting a dose of my own medicine.
So, to all of you through the years who have urged me to whittle my words - I get it, and I'm sorry. Brevity is a virtue.
War and Peace has not yet cured me of my chronic verbosity - a fact clearly evident from this post - but check in about a thousand pages from now. Maybe it will have.
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