Why Should I Read This? War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Sometimes I want to read War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, but every time I start reading it, I decide I don’t want to read it anymore. I think I should like it. It’s about war (unless the title is misleading), and I read war books. But if it’s about war, it seems to take a long time to get to the war. A novel titled War and Peace should start with the war and then get to the peace later. And that’s just my first complaint. When it comes to War and Peace, there are numerous reasons for a guy like me to not read it.
For one thing, War and Peace is really long. I don’t have the attention span for long books anymore. Also, those big, long books are heavy, and they hurt my neck, and when I download long books on my e-reader, it’s difficult for me to go back and flip pages to refresh my memory. I can do it, but it’s not as enjoyable as it is with a shorter, easier book.
To make matters worse, War and Peace is written in Russian. I don’t have anything against Russian. I just don’t understand the language, which means that I have to read a translated version of War and Peace. I don’t trust translations. A lot of an author’s voice and flowery prose (when I’m in the mood to appreciate it) can get messed up in a translation.
Plus, Russian names give me a headache. Again, I have nothing against Russian names, but some of them in War and Peace are long, and there are a lot of characters with long, similar names. Maybe it’s just a psychological thing with me. Maybe I’m just easily confused. At any rate, I have a tough time with the characters’ names in War and Peace.
Even though length and language are two decent reasons not to read a great novel, they might not be enough. If you think about it, War and Peace isn’t that long. When you compare War and Peace to a book series today like Game of Thrones, then War and Peace would be much shorter. And it’s been completed already. The reader doesn’t have to worry about the author dying before finishing the story. War and Peace is done. I’d rather read a long completed novel than an ongoing series that might not ever get finished.
Maybe the Russian names aren’t that bad either. Most people can figure out the names in Game of Thrones, and there are a lot of crazy names in that series. When I binge-watched Game of Thrones, I took the time to learn most of the names. If I can learn all (or most) of the names in Game of Thrones without reading the books, then I should be able to learn the names in War and Peace.
Plus, I’m pretty sure War and Peace is pretty good. It’s been translated into just about every language that literature can be translated into. That doesn’t happen arbitrarily. Sometimes classics are only classics because the academic types say they’re classics. I’m guessing that in the case of War and Peace, it’s a classic even without the help of literature professors. Maybe, just maybe, it’s worth the effort to read it.
Since War and Peace is public domain, anybody can rewrite it and Americanize all the Russian names. Maybe it would be a bastardization, but it might sell books. You could even call it a bastardization in the title. Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace: The Bastardized American Version. I’d read a bastardized American version of War and Peace. I’d even write a bastardized version of War and Peace, except then I’d have to read then real version of it first.
War and Peace; The Bastardized American Version could be simple to write. Pierre Bezhukov could be renamed Peter Ryan. Prince Andrei Nikolayevich Bolkonsky would be renamed Prince Andy Brewer. The characters are still Russian, but the names would be much easier keep up with for guys like me. Every weapon from the early 19th century could be described with intricate detail. A bunch of ironically dismissive comments about the growing United States could be made by both French and Russian characters. It could be great.
If the modern author could keep the bastardized version to under 500 pages, I might be able to read it. But I wouldn’t be able to brag about it later. If I ever read War and Peace, I want to feel good about bragging about it later.
What do you think? Is War and Peace worth reading? Can I brag about it if I finish reading it? What other classic novels would you like to read but probably won’t? Which translation of War and Peace is the best one? Does the translation even matter? Would you read the brand new Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace: The Bastardized American Version?
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