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  • "War and Peace,"

  • a tome,

  • a slog,

  • the sort of book you shouldn't read in bed because if you fall asleep,

  • it could give you a concussion, right?

  • Only partly.

  • "War and Peace" is a long book, sure,

  • but it's also a thrilling examination of history,

  • populated with some of the deepest, most realistic characters you'll find anywhere.

  • And if its length intimidates you, just image how poor Tolstoy felt.

  • In 1863, he set out to write a short novel about a political dissident

  • returning from exile in Siberia.

  • Five years later, he had produced a 1,200 page epic

  • featuring love stories,

  • battlefields,

  • bankruptcies,

  • firing squads,

  • religious visions,

  • the burning of Moscow,

  • and a semi-domesticated bear,

  • but no exile and no political dissidents.

  • Here's how it happened.

  • Tolstoy, a volcanic soul,

  • was born to a famously eccentric aristocratic family in 1828.

  • By the time he was 30, he had already dropped out of Kazan University,

  • gambled away the family fortune,

  • joined the army,

  • written memoirs,

  • and rejected the literary establishment to travel Europe.

  • He then settled into Yasnaya Polyana, his ancestral mansion,

  • to write about the return of the Decembrists,

  • a band of well-born revolutionaries pardoned in 1856 after 30 years in exile.

  • But, Tolstoy thought,

  • how could he tell the story of the Decembrists return from exile

  • without telling the story of 1825,

  • when they revolted against the conservative Tsar Nicholas II?

  • And how could he do that without telling the story of 1812,

  • when Napoleon's disastrous invasion of Russia

  • helped trigger the authoritarianism the Decembrists were rebelling against?

  • And how could he tell the story of 1812 without talking about 1805,

  • when the Russians first learned of the threat Napoleon posed

  • after their defeat at the Battle of Austerlitz?

  • So Tolstoy began writing,

  • both about the big events of history

  • and the small lives that inhabit those events.

  • He focused on aristocrats, the class he knew best.

  • The book only occasionally touches

  • on the lives of the vast majority of the Russian population,

  • who were peasants, or even serfs,

  • farmers bound to serve the owners of the land on which they lived.

  • "War and Peace" opens on the eve of war between France and Russia.

  • Aristocrats at a cocktail party fret about the looming violence,

  • but then change the topic to those things aristocrats always seem to care about:

  • money,

  • sex,

  • and death.

  • This first scene is indicative

  • of the way the book bounces between the political and personal

  • over an ever-widening canvas.

  • There are no main characters in "War and Peace."

  • Instead, readers enter a vast interlocking web

  • of relationships and questions.

  • Will the hapless and illegitimate son of a count

  • marry a beautiful but conniving princess?

  • Will his only friend survive the battlefields of Austria?

  • And what about that nice young girl falling in love with both men at once?

  • Real historical figures mix and mingle with all these fictional folk,

  • Napoleon appears several times,

  • and even one of Tolstoy's ancestors plays a background part.

  • But while the characters and their psychologies are gripping,

  • Tolstoy is not afraid to interrupt the narrative

  • to pose insightful questions about history.

  • Why do wars start?

  • What are good battlefield tactics?

  • Do nations rise and fall on the actions of so-called great men like Napoleon,

  • or are there larger cultural and economic forces at play?

  • These extended digressions are part of what make "War and Peace"

  • so panoramic in scope.

  • But for some 19th century critics,

  • this meant "War and Peace" barely felt like a novel at all.

  • It was a "large, loose, baggy monster," in the words of Henry James.

  • Tolstoy, in fact, agreed.

  • To him, novels were a western European form.

  • Russian writers had to write differently because Russian people lived differently.

  • "What is 'War and Peace'?" he asked.

  • "It is not a novel.

  • Still less an epic poem.

  • Still less a historical chronicle.

  • 'War and Peace' is what the author wanted and was able to express

  • in the form in which it was expressed."

  • It is, in other words, the sum total of Tolstoy's imaginative powers,

  • and nothing less.

  • By the time "War and Peace" ends,

  • Tolstoy has brought his characters to the year 1820,

  • 36 years before the events he originally hoped to write about.

  • In trying to understand his own times,

  • he had become immersed in the years piled up behind him.

  • The result is a grand interrogation into history,

  • culture,

  • philosophy,

  • psychology,

  • and the human response to war.

"War and Peace,"

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【TED-Ed】Why should you read Tolstoy's "War and Peace"? - Brendan Pelsue

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    李姿妤   に公開 2017 年 05 月 20 日
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