Reading War & Peace #2: One Woman’s Journey to Healing a Broken Leg

Due to unexpected… issues I fell back on my tentative reading plans and decided to just post my next War & Peace entry a week after the first. Twenty five minutes ago I realized that even though in my mind today is definitely a Tuesday, it is actually 2:17 AM on Wednesday. Not going to sleep does not mean the day goes on forever.

So. Unexpected issues. I had to go through surgery. I spent Wednesday night in a hospital with a nice metal add-on now permanently (?) attached to my leg. I took the book with me, expecting to have plenty of time. Turns out general anesthesia is quite a shocker to the system. I could barely keep my eyes open, let alone read. A one thousand page book. About 19th century Russian society. In French.

Okay, so not really in French, but there is quite a lot of it, considering this book is in English. The Louise and Alymer Maude translation, which is the one I’m reading, kept in some of the original French, usually providing translations via footnotes at the end of the novel. Every once in a while there’s a sentence in French with no explanation. Google, along with my attempt at finding where I stored those middle school French lessons in my brain, usually solves that problem.

So far the reading is going well. I remembered the book to be not nearly as complicated as I expected it to be the first time around. There are way too many nicknames (sometimes the same one for more than one person) and way too many footnotes but so far the language is reader-friendly, the plot not too hard to follow, and every once in a while I even find myself smiling at something I’ve just read.

I’ve also discovered quite a lot of info out there meant to support the terrified reader attempting this sort of thing. There’s a Goodreads group called “Reading the Chunkers” which actually happens to be hosting a two-month War & Peace read-a-long right now! There are also endless videos “summarizing” (I put that in quotation marks because summarizing War & Peace sounds sort of like a joke) and providing background and tips. I’ll let you all know if I find something interesting.

So, I think from my high place of page eighty five, my two main tips for now are BACKGROUND and CHARACTERS. So far, at least with this translation, not knowing enough of the history is not a hinderance to the process since a lot is explained in the footnotes, and yet, it will become important, especially later on in battle scenes. Furthermore, I think understanding the greater picture will make the experience more… wholesome and enjoyable, and since I am only ever going to read this once (well, counting the first round once and a half) I might as well do it properly.

As for characters – follow the story. Don’t gloss over. It can get tiring trying to follow the first names and last names and nicknames and- well, you get it- of millions of characters. However, skipping once sets you up for a lot of confusion later on. If you don’t understand something (who’s talking, who’s listening, who’s just standing around in the background, etc.) re-read. Over and over. Until you do. Trust me. Again, much more enjoyable. This whole project may sort of feel like… bootcamp but it’s also supposed to be fun. In its own masochistic way.

Well, that’s enough for now. I’ll just leave you here with the closest thing to humor I’ve seen so far:

  • “Well, Michael Ivankovich, our Buonaparte will be having a bad time of it. Prince Andrew” (he always spoke thus of his son) “has been telling me what forces are being collected against him! While you and I have never thought much of him.” Michael Ivankovich did not at all know when “you and I” had said such things about Buonaparte, but understanding that he was wanted as a peg on which to hang the prince’s favorite topic, he looked inquiringly at the young prince, wondering what would follow. (pg. 77)

And another appearance of our lovely Michael Ivankovich (who seems to be completely unimportant as of now but has so far provided some nice bits to share with you all):

  • “Michael Ivankovich!” cried the old prince to the architect who, busy with his roast meat, hoped he had been forgotten: “Didn’t I tell you Buonaparte was a great tactican? Here, he says the same thing.”

Till next time (and hopefully not about one hundred pages behind my plans),


(previous entry here)


One response

  1. […] was hard to understand and the military terms were waaaay beyond my league. I decided to take my own advice and not gloss over this time. Needless to say, my phone Chrome tabs are all open on various […]

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