Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Tolstoy invades War and Peace


There are two epilogues in War and Peace, one for war and the other for peace I presume. In my translation (Vintage Press/ Pevear and Volokhonsky's) Tolstoy's appendix is added. He could have done without that vestigial organ and also the second epilogue with its maundering on the nature of history, free will and whether Napoleon really invaded Russia of his own volition or was it a predetermined event. Within the novel sidebar obiter dicta draw the narrator into the action in an interesting way particularly if we consider him unreliable. It's ironic that the all-seeing eye describing the battle believes that the accounts of battles are compounded by the officers commanding into a plausible fiction that is coherent with a ruling myth such as the uncanny cunning of Napoleon or the Russian spirit of Kutusov.

The appendix is a symptom of Tolstoy's own doubt. His special pleading for the anomalous Russian novel and his restatement of history as predetermined as far as 1812 is concerned pushes that doubt like a loosening tooth.

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