Archive for December, 2007



Note the discarded Entertainment Weekly in the background!  Nothing but Tolstoy for me from now on!


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While War and Peace wings (trucks?) its way to me from Amazon central, I thought I’d consult my friend and personal expert on all things Russian and literary, Dr. Inna. She’s an old friend, and she was good enough to humor me when I sent her a few questions. 

Me:  So, I’ve cooked up this project for myself — to read one of the new editions of W&P in 2008.  I’ve ordered the thing, it should come soon.   You’re the only Russian Literature expert I know, so I have some questions:

What do you think of the novel?  Have you read the whole thing?  Does everyone in your field have to read it?

Inna: I have read War and Peace many times; first time as a kid.   Everybody in my field is supposed to read it (in the original), and most students do, too. 

[So every Russian schoolchild has to read this book?  Great, so I’ll be incredibly LAME if I don’t manage to finish.]

Me:   Any thoughts on the new version (the one by the husband and wife team)?

Inna: I really like what this team of translators does with Dostoevsky, so there is no reason for them to be any worse with Tolstoy. I am not especially fond of Tolstoy, but if you are in the mood for a slow novel with “fixed beautiful forms of life passed”, War and Peace is an excellent choice. I prefer it to other works by Tolstoy, so if I were to advise you to read a novel by Tolstoy, War and Peace would be my recommendation. I like the peace parts of the novel better, and at times it seems a bother to be getting through all that French (translated in the footnotes), but it’s overall entertaining.  

[This sounds like more fun all the time!]

Me:  What do you think my chances are of making it all the way through?

Inna: I am sure you can finish it faster than in a year, it is an easy read.

[No, Inna, Curious George Flies a Kite is an easy read.  This book is almost the definition of a difficult read.  Plus, I’m a caffeine-addled, ADD-afflicted child of the Internet!  I have no hope!]

Me: Anything you think I should know?  Am I an idiot?

Inna:  You are not an idiot, though that is a title of another novel you may want to read.

[And come to think of it, I have read The Idiot.  Add that to my CV, below.   Thanks to Dr. Inna for her expertise!]

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Greetings, Gentle Reader

Welcome to my new blog, tentatively titled Overestimated.  In contrast to my other blog, which is about any random thing that flashes across the inside of my cranium, this  one has a dedicated purpose: in 2008, I plan to read War and Peace and write about the experience.   I have chosen the recent translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, because the damn thing keeps cropping up wherever I look,  in magazines, on the radio, everywhere. 

I am serious about this.  Just to show how serious I am, I bought the book from Amazon, at a cost of $24.42.  That’s Serious Guy Money.  

I also created this blog, and another one very similar to it except with the URL MISSPELLED.  Both of those Very Serious tasks, plus the initial decision to undertake this project, required about five minutes, total.   I expect this project to take up all of my free reading time for 2008.  (So suck it, Postwar, by Tony Judt!) 

Gentle reader, you are invited to take this journey with me.  Things you may expect from me, your guide:

1.  Many typographical errors, for which I apologize.

2.  A general lack of expertise on the subject.  My 19th century Russian Literature CV includes:  reading Anna Karenina over a summer in college, reading Crime and Punishment in its entirety on a train-ferry-train-metro-bus trip between Swansea, Wales and Goussainville, France (and consequently retaining almost nothing of it), and crawling my way through the empty landscape of The Brothers Karamazov  in 20-minute segments (representing my commute) over the course of a couple of years in Boston and washington D.C. 

3.  An astounding irregularity of progress.  That’s just how I roll.  

Your comments are welcome, and your readership is appreciated. 

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