How to read War & Peace

How I started reading War & Peace

It all started when I unexpectedly traveled to Mumbai and unexpectedly stayed there for about two months. Living there (or anywhere) with any book is simply impossible for me. So I checked my to-read list and decided to purchase War & Peace. It got delivered on the 10th of September, 2016 and  my enthusiasm got sublimed within minutes. The size of the book was bigger than my Constitutional Law book. I felt an adrenaline rush, my brain was numbed. I sat down in the sofa, sipped some water, and kept staring the book. There were no voices in my head.

For days to come I would just wake up every morning, look at my book for 10-15 minutes and say nothing to it or myself. I started reading my niece’s old history books. The one with a lot of pictures, the one she used to read when she was 11.

After about 10 days, when I was silently staring at the book, I said to myself, (in Raskolnikov’s Russian accent) “What have I done? Why did I do this to myself?” My sister and her entire family started to laugh at me when I would just sit and stare at the book. And after a couple of days, I finally opened the book.war-and-peace

One afternoon, when I was all alone, I sat on the dining table and started reading. I read about 5 pages and understood nothing and within minutes I dozed off. After a couple of days, I read upto 20 pages and again slept on the book. The next time I opened the book, after a gap of 2-3 days, there was nothing I could remember and page 21 was not comprehensible. I went back to staring my book for a few days and repeated the above process four times. It was the fifth time that I read about 20 pages and got a hang of it, I even went to to read till page 22 and could comprehend and not fall asleep.

And THAT is when I finally started reading War & Peace.

How to read War & Peace

This is one of the most notable and much celebrated works of Leo Tolstoy. It is divided into four volumes and it could be overwhelming for some of us (like me) considering it’s size, volume and simply because it’s Leo Tolstoy’s book. Following are some tips for how to read this book or the like-

1. Get used to the book.

Flip through, go through the contents, read the covers, about the author and other such short paragraphs in the beginning of the book. Accept the fact that you are going to read the book. Keep the book around yourself, so that you get to see the book every now and then. After getting used to the book, it won’t seem like a mountain. You’d start seeing it like a readable book, maybe not that big after all!

2. The Russian names!

In the beginning of the book there is a list of important characters. The list constitutes about 35 Russian names, which are difficult to pronounce at least for an average Indian. Well that’s not it; every Russian name has 4-5 variations. The name, the second name, the title, and the additional list of nick names. For example-

COUNT NIKOLAI ILYICH (Nikolushka, Nikolenka, Kolya, Nicolas, Coco)

Now this person Nikolai could be addressed with any of the above names, depending upon the situation and who is addressing him. He is also sometimes called by his father’s name, i.e. ROSTOV. So don’t be surprised if you have read about 100 pages and yet don’t recognize the character.

The solution is to keep referring to the list of characters often. Also creating a mental picture of each an every character would help (that would automatically happen, with Tolstoy’s description!)

3.   Be patient with yourself and with the book.

This is one of the most amazing book you are going to read. It might be very different from anything you have come across until now. Learn to appreciate the book, the writing style, imagine the author’s dedication, hard work and research to be able to come up with this; countless people who have translated this voluminous book into different languages.

4. Read regularly.

The writing style of the book requires you to read this book regularly; even if it is one page a day. It doesn’t matter how many pages you’ve covered, if you don’t read it on a regularly, you might just forget everything and might have to restart. (gasp!)

Most importantly, always remember, You don’t read War & Peace, you live it. So don’t just read it, breath it, taste it and get lost in Tolstoy’s vivid work.

PS: I write my blogs with a lot of effort and passion, so if you enjoyed it don’t forget to follow it, like and share it among your friends as it’s my only incentive. And for any queries, comments or if disagree with me don’t forget to write to me in the comment section below and I would love to reply to it. Thank you🙂

9 Replies to “How to read War & Peace”

  1. haha, your coloumn .. gave me strength how to read my new book , i ll try ! Nice effort ! So have you finished Leo ??


  2. I’ve been wanting to read Tolstoy for some time now, I love his quotes and know that he’d be amazing to read. Have you read any of his other works? I’m thinking of starting with Anna Karenina…


    1. Hi Shrushti, no I haven’t read any of Tolstoy’s work other than this… But I definitely intend to. I’ve read his short stories though. They are quite thought provoking

      Liked by 1 person

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