War and Peace Overview (1869-2016)


Introduction

War and Peace (pre-reform Russian: Война и миръ; post-reform Russian: Война и мир, romanised: Vojna i mir [vɐjˈna i ˈmʲir]) is a novel by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy, published serially, then in its entirety in 1869. It is regarded as a central work of world literature and one of Tolstoy’s finest literary achievements.

The novel chronicles the French invasion of Russia and the impact of the Napoleonic era on Tsarist society through the stories of five Russian aristocratic families. Portions of an earlier version, titled The Year 1805, were serialised in The Russian Messenger from 1865 to 1867, then published in its entirety in 1869.

Tolstoy said War and Peace is “not a novel, even less is it a poem, and still less a historical chronicle.” Large sections, especially the later chapters, are philosophical discussion rather than narrative. Tolstoy also said that the best Russian literature does not conform to standards and hence hesitated to call War and Peace a novel best of all. Instead, he regarded Anna Karenina as his first true novel.

Background and Historical Context

The novel spans the period 1805 to 1820. The era of Catherine the Great was still fresh in the minds of older people. Catherine had made French the language of her royal court. For the next one hundred years, it became a social requirement for members of the Russian nobility to speak French and understand French culture.

The historical context of the novel begins with the execution of Louis Antoine, Duke of Enghien in 1805, while Russia is ruled by Alexander I during the Napoleonic Wars. Key historical events woven into the novel include the Ulm Campaign, the Battle of Austerlitz, the Treaties of Tilsit, and the Congress of Erfurt. Tolstoy also references the Great Comet of 1811 just before the French invasion of Russia.

Tolstoy then uses the Battle of Ostrovno and the Battle of Shevardino Redoubt in his novel, before the occupation of Moscow and the subsequent fire. The novel continues with the Battle of Tarutino, the Battle of Maloyaroslavets, the Battle of Vyazma, and the Battle of Krasnoi. The final battle cited is the Battle of Berezina, after which the characters move onward with rebuilding Moscow and their lives.

The War and Peace Novel

  • Book 01.
  • Book 02.
  • Book 03.
  • Book 04.
  • Epilogue (Parts 1 and 2).

War and Peace Films, TV Series and Documentaries

Production & Filming Details

  • Director: Tom Harper.
  • Producers: Andrew Davies, Bethan Jones, Faith Penhale, Simon Vaughan, Harvey Weinstein, Robert Walak, and Julia Stannard.
  • Writer: Andrew Davies.
  • Music: Martin Phipps.
  • Cinematography: George Steel.
  • Editors: Mark Eckersley and Steven Worsley.
  • Production: BBC Cymru Wales, The Weinstein Company, Lookout Point, and BBC Worldwide.
  • Distributors: BBC and A&E Networks.
  • Release Date: 07 February 2016.
  • Running time: 60-82 minutes (per episode).
  • Country: UK.
  • Language: English.

YouTube Link

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