War and Peace



Suggested Translation

People are free to use whatever translation they please.  Perhaps some don’t really need a translation.  However, the suggested translation for our reading of War and Peace is that by Richard Pevear and Larisssa Volokhonsky.  No translation is ideal in every respect, and this one undoubtedly has its flaws.  Nonetheless, it was released to good reviews in 2007.  (See, for example, this review from The New York Review of Books, and David Remnick’s article on the translators from The New Yorker .)  One notable feature of this translation is that the passages that Tolstoy published in languages other than Russian are left in those languages, and translations of these passages are then provided in the notes.  (The e-book has all the translations and notes, but I have had trouble switching back and forth with links.  I have had to awkwardly scroll back and forth from the text to the notes, at the end of the book, and the translations, at the end of the volumes, and the text.  The paper version is easier to use.)  We presume that Tolstoy had a purpose in using the various languages as he did, and the Pevear and Volokhonsky treatment remains fairly faithful to the author’s intentions by not translating passages not in Russian.  Unfortunately this treatment is somewhat more difficult to read than one where everything, or nearly everything, not in English, is translated as the text flows along.  (Where Tolstoy uses English, the passage will be italicized in Pevear and Volokhonsky, as with other uses of non-Russian language.  Obviously, there will then be no translation in the notes.)  But this is only a minor difficulty.  Tolstoy was deliberate in his choice of what language he used, and this translation remains faithful to the original.

It is convenient if we all use the same edition, but not absolutely essential.  Those who quote from other translations should remember that it might be difficult for the rest of us reading the Pevear and Volokhonsky edition to find the same passage.

This translation is available from Amazon in both paper and ebook versions for a reasonable price.





Leave a Reply