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Sunday, Oct 21, 2007, 1:23 pm

Tolstoy On Defining The Time

By Jarrett Dapier

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"The character of the time, as some readers expressed to me when the first part (of War and Peace) appeared in print, is insufficiently defined in my work. To this reproach I have the following rejoinder. I know what this character of the time is that people do not find in my novel - the horrors of serfdom, the immuring of wives, the whipping of adult sons...and so on; and this character of that time, which lives in our imagination, I do not consider correct and did not wish to express. Studying letters, diaries, legends, I did not find all the horrors of brutality in a greater degree than I find them now or at any other time. In those times, too, people loved, envied, sought truth, virtue, were carried away by passions... If in our minds we have formed an opinion of the arbitrariness and crude force characteristic of that time, it is only because the legends, memoirs, stories, and novels that have come down to us record only the most outstanding cases of violence and brutality. To conclude that the prevalent character of that time was brutality is as incorrect as it would be for a man who sees only treetops beyond a hill to conclude that there is nothing but trees in that region."

- Leo Tolstoy
"A Few Words Apropos of the Book War and Peace"
Published in The Russian Archive, March 1868
Included as an appendix to War and Peace
2007 edition translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsy

Jarrett Dapier is a former assistant publisher at In These Times. Previous work for ITT includes interviews with playwright Christopher Shinn and Fugazi guitarist, Ian Mackaye. He currently works with teens at the Evanston Public Library where he runs a recycled drumming program and directs stage adaptations of young adult literature. He lives in Evanston, IL.

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