Saturday, November 27, 2010

War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

US/UK Kindle Classic
War and Peace
Leo Tolstoy
Incest . . . a psychopath . .. forced marriages . . . scheming over a corpse . . . what is not to like?  All War and Peace needs is a zombie to bring it up to date.  Thankfully this absorbing novel works just fine in the era it is set.  So get in your time machine and re-discover once again that people do not change.

The Kindle edition of War and Peace (.99 US Edition) (£0.70 UK edition) is translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude. The Constance Garnett translation is purportedly online Amazon US a dozen times - but each one is mislabeled! (More on this below.) However, the Maude translation was authorized by Tolstoy and has stood the test of time, not falling into disfavor as sometimes happens with translations.

The US version does not have chapter titles, they are listed by number - so they are not descriptive.  I do not know what the Garnett version looks like.  You kind of take potluck with these free and inexpensive versions when it comes to niceties such as cover, chapter titles and preface.  Sometimes you are just flung right into reading.

I do not love this book but I like it.  Like Joyce's Ulysses, it is one of those books I had to start more than once before I could get into it.  I loved the account of the battle of Borodino.  (I like military history.)  I would not say anything to discourage anyone from reading this book, so my liking it should be seen as a failure on my part and I am sure you will love it.

Downloading it just now, I am now reading it again.  It is absorbing and funny and deserves to be known as a great book: 
"But Pierre now committed a reverse act of impoliteness. First he had left a lady before she had finished speaking to him, and now he continued to speak to another who wished to get away."
The Kindle shows it strength with these long books, because you are not carrying around a heavy volume.  War and Peace could not be easily be read on public transport before the Kindle!

The first line of the Constance Garnett is
"Well, Prince, Genoa and Lucca are now no more than private estates of the Bonaparte family."

I have downloaded samples of every purported translation by Garnett and none are Garnett's translation. . .

Here is a really good guide on how to tell which translation you have.  It is by Amazon reviewer, Barney Duff, who toils in relative anonymity, but who has taken the trouble to help everyone interested in this topic.  For example (and this is just a taste):
MAUDE (1922):
"Well, Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the Buonapartes."

and later

"It was in July, 1805, and the speaker was the well-known Anna Pavlovna Scherer, maid of honor..."

GARNETT (1904):

first paragraph:
"Well, Prince, Genoa and Lucca are now no more than private estates of the Bonaparte family. (1)"

"These words were uttered in July 1805 by Anna Pavlovna Scherer, a distinguished lady of the court,..."
If this is not enough, I would also point you to a nice piece by The Language Geek.  Page down to the middle of the page.  I am busy writing Amazon to tell them the Garnett translations are wrongly attributed, so perhaps this will be fixed and maybe when people see Garnett is not available, that will be corrected too!

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