8 votes

The greatest of all novels: On "War and Peace", Tolstoy's masterpiece

9 comments

  1. [5]
    mrbig (edited ) Link
    When I was younger I had this dream of studying lots of philosophy, reading all the classics and becoming some kind of uber intellectual. A few decades later, I did read some cool books but...

    When I was younger I had this dream of studying lots of philosophy, reading all the classics and becoming some kind of uber intellectual. A few decades later, I did read some cool books but watched a lot more TV shows. I didn't read any Shakespeare, but a few books from Goethe (one), Dostoyevsky (two), Philip K. Dick (two), Rubem Fonseca, Luís Fernando Veríssimo, Ray Bradbury and other authors. Most of my philosophical knowledge comes from Wikipedia, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, this awesome man and an old — and awesome — Philosophy collection called Os Pensadores (The Thinkers). I never read Cervantes, Tolstoy, or Camões, and, while I appreciate their importance, I'm pretty sure that 100 years from now we'll also be talking about people like Isaac Asimov, Clive Barker, Umberto Eco, Italo Calvino, Charlie Kaufman, Sergio Leone and Francis Ford Coppola. So, if a piece of art doesn't make me eager, I simply ignore it, regardless of its historical importance. I abandoned the guilt and embraced my own mundane tastes. In general, books from the 19th century with more than 1000 pages are way over my league. But I enjoy reading essays about them, such as this one.

    5 votes
    1. [4]
      45930 Link Parent
      I read more than half of Anna Karenina before I threw in the towel. I like some other "classics". I'm enjoying Homer, and I like everything I've ever read by 20th century American novelists, but...

      I read more than half of Anna Karenina before I threw in the towel. I like some other "classics". I'm enjoying Homer, and I like everything I've ever read by 20th century American novelists, but man that shit was so boring to me. I do kind of like the idea of being able to reference classic works, and I definitely think there's value in studying "important" books. I also think, like classical music, there's something for everyone out there. If you're reading for fun or self improvement, then why read something that you don't enjoy and isn't resonating with you?

      Long story short, if you want a degree in Russian lit, you better read some Tolstoy. Otherwise, if his work doesn't innately appeal to you, you should be all set giving him a pass.

      2 votes
      1. [3]
        mrbig (edited ) Link Parent
        Absolutely. If you're a critic or an academic, the classics are an invaluable resource, handy set of references that you can use to frame and describe other works. They're entirely optional...

        if you want a degree in Russian lit, you better read some Tolstoy. Otherwise, if his work doesn't innately appeal to you, you should be all set giving him a pass.

        Absolutely. If you're a critic or an academic, the classics are an invaluable resource, handy set of references that you can use to frame and describe other works. They're entirely optional otherwise.

        As a personal example, I'm a film major, was trained in film analysis and worked as a film critic in print newspapers and online. I studied the history of pre-film technologies, nickelodeons, the Lumière brothers, Pathé and Edison Studios, among others. I know Chaplin, Keaton, Grifth, Dreyer, Murnau, Welles, Ford, Hitchcock, Tarkovsky, Bergman, Lumet, Coppola, Disney, Kubrick, Spielberg and many others.

        This repertoire did not come easily — I saw many movies for research value, without much enjoyment. I also learned how to make movies, from the screenplay to the final cut[1]. But I applied all that effort because that was my career, I would never chastise someone for not having the same degree of knowledge. Civil engineers don't think less of doctors because they're not able to make buildings, why should I do the same about everyone else?

        [1]: Although you never fully learn things like that...

        1. [2]
          45930 Link Parent
          I like to think that you've done all this study of media and chosen a King of the Hill reference as your username, but I looked it up and it seems like Mr Big can refer to a lot of different things.

          I like to think that you've done all this study of media and chosen a King of the Hill reference as your username, but I looked it up and it seems like Mr Big can refer to a lot of different things.

          1 vote
          1. mrbig Link Parent
            It’s actually from the TV show Friends, from when Monica calls Chandler “Mr. Big” in reference to a part of the male anatomy. I may be a film major but my personal taste is far from erudite :)

            It’s actually from the TV show Friends, from when Monica calls Chandler “Mr. Big” in reference to a part of the male anatomy.

            I may be a film major but my personal taste is far from erudite :)

  2. [4]
    iiv Link
    This essay actually convinced me that War and Peace is one of the greatest novels. I've always been intimidated by its size and length, but now I've got to read it!

    This essay actually convinced me that War and Peace is one of the greatest novels. I've always been intimidated by its size and length, but now I've got to read it!

    1 vote
    1. [3]
      Grand0rbiter (edited ) Link Parent
      It's a promise i probably have to pay soon. I promised that if i passed AND was called to work a government job i was studying for here in Brazil, i would read War and Peace. I passed, but i am...

      It's a promise i probably have to pay soon.

      I promised that if i passed AND was called to work a government job i was studying for here in Brazil, i would read War and Peace. I passed, but i am waiting the call and it could be one or two years from now. (There's a chance i will not be called, because, like Dio sings, i'm the last in line)

      The book is waiting on my shelf. Hope i get a chance to read it.

      2 votes
      1. [2]
        mrbig Link Parent
        Hello fellow Brazilian :D First of all, congratulations! Second of all, I find it amusing that you chose to read a 1200 pages book right after you were finally free from the life of a concurseiro :P

        Hello fellow Brazilian :D

        First of all, congratulations!

        Second of all, I find it amusing that you chose to read a 1200 pages book right after you were finally free from the life of a concurseiro :P

        2 votes
        1. Grand0rbiter Link Parent
          Thanks! Glad the promise was not about reading Infinite Jest. It's sitting on my shelf too.

          Thanks!

          Glad the promise was not about reading Infinite Jest. It's sitting on my shelf too.

          1 vote