Philip Hensher explains why he thinks Tolstoy misunderstood his own masterpiece:

In War and Peace the immense mechanism is the history of Napoleon's Russian campaign; for the reader, there is no escape from that. He knows how it ends, and sees, as the characters can't, the whole immovable narrative from the start. If he doesn't know what will happen to the Bolkonskys, the Kuragins, the Rostovs, he does know that their lives will be played out against a vast sequence which can't be altered now. Tolstoy projected backwards, and thought that none of this could never have been altered by personal decision; I think he was wrong, but his peculiar theory provides this greatest of all novels with an august frame [...] Tolstoy certainly wasn't the first, or the last novelist who misunderstood his own work. The most devastating rebuttal of his own theories comes in the great first epilogue.

Readers Comments

Leave a Comment

If you have not posted a comment on RSB before, it will need to be approved by the Managing Editor. Once you have an approved comment, you are safe to post further comments. We have also introduced a captcha code to prevent spam.




Enter the code shown here:   [captcha]

Note: If you cannot read the numbers in the above image, reload the page to generate a new one.