Tuesday, August 13, 2013

War and Peace

I have been heavily absorbed with all things War and Peace this summer. I am currently reading "Russia Against Napoleon: The True Story of the Campaigns of War and Peace" by Dominic Lieven. 

This is a very interesting account of the 1812 Campaign and, as important, the subsequent events of 1813 and 1814. It is written from the Russian point of view and does a particularly good job of explaining how the Russians organized their war effort and how they recovered from the fall of Moscow to take the War into Poland, Germany and eventually France.

I did not know logistics and the mobilizing and training of reserves could make such a good read, but it does here. I have read quite a few accounts of 1812, Borodino, the Retreat etc. But this is the first time that this part of the war has made such sense in its entirety. This book also makes a great companion piece to "War and Peace", supporting some of Tolstoy's views and rejecting others in a balanced way.

I found reading this book, and reading/listening to "War and Peace", was greatly assisted by the following maps and chart which are readily available on Wikipedia.

The Minard Graph

As for "War and Peace" itself,  I recently bought a new copy to replace my old Penguin paperback edition of almost 40 years ago. This time I chose the 2012 Richard PevearLarissa Volokhonsky translation (thanks Yanni!) and I'm well pleased with it.

I have been listening to the Louise and Aylmer Maude translation on Audible, narrated by my favorite reader, the incomparable Frederick Davidson (real name: David Case). David died in 2005 but his work lives on in this wonderful recording. There will never be a more perfect Pierre in my opinion.

As for film versions, this is tough. I wanted to like Sergei Bondarchuk's massive film of 1968. It is generally considered a masterpiece but I could not relate to the actors playing the major roles and the famous battle scenes are problematic. I thought I liked the 1972 BBC televised version but it looked very dated when I tried to watch it recently. 

I found the most enjoyable interpretation to be the 2007 mini series.

War and Peace, 2007

The international cast is excellent:

Clémence Poésy- Natasha Rostova
Alessio Boni- Prince Andrej Bolkonsky
Alexander Beyer- Pierre Bezukhov
Violante Placido- Helene Kuragin

The script follows the novel somewhat loosely but still captures the essence of the characters and the times. No substitute for the novel, but enjoyable in its own right.

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