Friday, June 6, 2014

Summer Reading

I have to admit that I'm an eye-roller.  I roll my eyes at the people who think of summer reading as the time to "read something brainless" or to "take it easy." To me, summer means I have MORE downtime with fewer recitals and meetings that might bleed into evening, fewer conferences and deadlines, and sometimes an actual day off!

I'm the girl who read Gravity's Rainbow on a beach in Mexico.  I read Infinite Jest along with the Summer of Jest group last summer.  That group stuck together and read several more books together, including The Pale King.  Not long ago, people were feeling lethargic, unchallenged, and disconnected.

Obviously the answer to these feelings is to read a more challenging book!  We agreed in less than a day that this summer we would tackle War and Peace.  Unlike last year where there were weeks of planning to read Infinite Jest, we just kind of jumped in, although one kind soul did come up with a schedule involving a certain amount of the book every week and targeting dates for online video chats about the mighty tome.

Today the library where I work was closed for the annual fumigation and carpet cleaning.   What did I do for my day off?  I started reading War and Peace, of course.  I downloaded the Kindle version because I had yet to read a very large book as an eBook.  I'm not sure I'll be happy with this decision, as so far I have to click every time I want to read a footnote or the translation of the French, and seeing it on a separate page isn't quite the same as glancing down to see it in the print.  And the translators of this particular edition kept the French parts French! 

Oh, the translation.  This is an important issue and I did a lot of research about which one to read, which could have been a 1,024 page error.  The article in The New York Review of Books about the newer translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky made my decision easy.  They are pretty much the new champions of Russian literature in English, and made strides towards capturing the best of Tolstoy, including his sentence fragments, repetition of phrases and descriptive language, and quirky word choices. 

So far it has been pretty amusing.  Tolstoy really seems to capture the complicated imperfection nature of his characters.  The reading experience may also be quite educational as I am not ashamed to admit that I know very little about this period of Russian history.  Or Napoleon, for that matter. 


  1. The P&V translation is certainly the best one. At one point I owned three different translations and I ended up getting rid of them in favour of the newest. It helps that the P&V War and Peace is just absolutely stunning book-wise, from cover to typesetting to paper choice *as well* as the quality of the text itself. Something that unfortunately doesn't carry over to the ebook.

    1. I'm not sure how far I'll get before buying the print but I think it will have to happen. eBooks are convenient but miss interacting with it, flipping back and forth, marking the pages. It sounds sentimental but I want it to be obviously read!


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