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With typically disarming modesty, the author, Professor Reginald Christian, writes in his preface, ‘This is a book about a book, and as such it is doubtful it would meet with Tolstoy’s approval if he were alive today. He goes on to say however, ‘And yet people will continue to write about Tolstoy, as they continue to write about Shakespeare. The purpose of this book is in the first place to acquaint the English reader with material which will facilitate an understanding of the process of writing War and Peace – material which for the most part has not been translated into English, and which is not always obtainable in Russian: draft version of the novel, Tolstoy’s diaries, notebooks and letters, the historical and biographical sources he used, and the secondary critical literature about the novel. In the second place I have attempted to consider certain aspects of the finished work – structural, linguistic, and ideological – and to offer very briefly some possible lines of approach to Tolstoy’s art as a novelist.’
There are six chapters: The Evolution of the Novel, Use of Sources, Idea and Genre, Structure and Composition, Language, Characterization.
War and Peace is arguably the greatest novel ever written. If any novel deserves this sort of critical anatomy it is War and Peace especially when written by one of the greatest Tolstoy scholars of the last one hundred years.
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