This version is certain to provoke controversy and devotion in equal measures. A ‘first draft’ of the epic version known to all, it was completed in 1866 but never published. A closely guarded secret for a century and a half, the unveiling of the original version of ‘War and Peace’, with an ending different to that we all know, is of huge significance to students of Tolstoy. But it is also sure to prove fascinating to the general reader who will find it an invigorating and absorbing read. Free of the solemn philosophical wanderings, the drama and tragedy of this sweeping tale is reinforced. His characters remain central throughout, emphasising their own personal journeys, their loves and passions, their successes and failures and their own personal tragedies.
8 It’s quite a long novel, but not absurdly long. Proust is twice the length. Nor is it at all difficult. You think it’s a challenge? Ha, ha – The Man Without Qualities is a challenge, and it took me 17 years to get to the end of Joseph and his Brothers . You’ll read War and Peace in 10 days, maximum. Many people find the first 100 pages dauntingly full of characters, and only then does it seem to smooth out and become lucid. Tolstoy has immense care for his readers, and most of his challenges are challenges of sympathy, not of intricate understanding. (I once read War and Peace on the beach – the elegant clarity of style and the concision of each chapter made it perfect. You could read for five minutes with interest, or for three absorbed hours.) To almost everyone’s amazement, by the time they reach the end of the First Epilogue, with its overwhelming sense of life continuing and proliferating, new possibilities of thought opening up, any reader will probably wish that this marvellous book could go on for ever.