tolstoy between war and peaceby w. lednicki

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  • Tolstoy between War and Peace by W. LednickiReview by: R. F. ChristianThe Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 44, No. 103 (Jul., 1966), pp. 493-494Published by: the Modern Humanities Research Association and University College London, School ofSlavonic and East European StudiesStable URL: .Accessed: 18/06/2014 04:29

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  • reviews 493

    Lednicki, W. Tolstoy between War and Peace. Mouton and Co., The Hague,

    1965. 169 pages. Index.

    The claim made in the deplorably written blurb of this book that 'it

    precipitates and crystallises into visible being many significant aspects of the great writer heretofore misunderstood or unrealised by critics and scholars' is an extravagant one. Its main theme of Tolstoy's changing attitudes to Poland?the theme of the author's earlier essay Tolstoj a Polska and his book Quelques aspects du nationalisme et du Christianisme chez Tolstoi?is indeed thoroughly treated. Its subsidiary comments on Tol?

    stoy's life and art, however, are not especially novel or profound. Professor Lednicki has systematically extracted from Tolstoy's works

    every Polish name and reference. He has made a chronological and ex? haustive collection of Tolstoy's 'Polonica', in support of his thesis that the

    early indifference or hostility to Poland on the part of this 'great Russian lord' gave way eventually to sympathy and understanding. Tolstoy's un? fortunate chauvinism and xenophobia are well known. This new study gives us the richly documented evidence for his early antipathy towards the Poles?Rostov's dislike of Zdrzynski, Bolkonsky's aversion to Czar?

    toryski, the stupid enthusiasm of the Polish lancers who jump into the river to please Napoleon, Tolstoy's own bantering attitude to Polish

    spelling. It shows how Tolstoy struggled in later life to overcome his

    'Polonophobia', quoting in evidence certain passages from 'Resurrection'

    (e.g. the sympathetic portrayal of the Polish political prisoner Lozinsky), and particularly the little known story %a chto? (a resume and discussion of which occupy well over a third of the book), in which Tolstoy is said to have paid an eloquent tribute to Polish martyrdom. Finally Tolstoy's own theoretical pronouncements on Polish themes are collected and discussed.

    The case is put with scholarly thoroughness. No item of 'Polonica' is

    overlooked, however trivial. If at times one seems to hear the author

    saying?'Poland is my native land. Tolstoy was a great man. Therefore it is only right that he too should have come to love Poland'?the thesis is nevertheless persuasively argued. The digressions, however, such as

    Tolstoy's 'dependence' in 'The Raid' on La Rochefoucauld, are of a

    haphazard nature, and the book would have gained from compression, perhaps into a long article. The style is discursive and repetitive. The mis? use of articles and prepositions, foreign syntax ('lead a fight with') and a

    vocabulary which includes 'deromantization', 'indeliberate' and 'mis- sionarism' inevitably distract the reader, as do sentences like: 'It left

    nothing unturned and embraced the smallest of former antipathies and

    unforgotten resentments and cast them into the mold of the grandiose transformation which was realized under the commandments of the Christian religion as well as in the climate of a spiritual work characterized

    by extraordinary tenacity and vigilance'. Professor Lednicki rightly criti? cises inconsistent transcriptions of Polish names, but he himself writes Bezukhov and Bezuhov, Goldenveizer and Goldenvejzer, La Rochefou? cauld and La Rouchefoucauld.

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    The comparative spirit which inspires this book is admirable, and it is a labour of love by a scholar with a profound knowledge of his subject. The more the pity, then, that it is not better written.

    Birmingham R. F. Christian

    The Oxford Chekhov. Volume III. Uncle Vanya. Three Sisters. The Cherry Orchard. The Wood-Demon. Translated and edited by Ronald Hingley. Oxford University Press, London, 1964. xix+ 343 pages. Biblio?


    This volume is the first to appear of a set of nine, which will include all Chekhov's plays and most of his short stories. It includes the last three

    plays and 'The Wood Demon', sensibly placed here for comparison with 'Uncle Vanya'. The appendixes contain discussions of textual problems and any of Chekhov's utterances on these plays which might help a modern producer to understand the author's intentions better. The 'chief aim has been to produce versions for the stage'.

    Chekhov is a notoriously difficult author to translate, and he has been

    particularly unfortunate in his English renderings. This is not because he is a difficult writer in any sense of the word, but because his effects

    depend upon a delicate balance of styles. Poetry and banality, ineffectual sadness and facetiousness, lofty sentiments about the future of mankind and jokes about frying babies in frying-pans coexist disconcertingly in the

    original; often enough in translation these transitions are quite unfathom? able.

    It is the merit of Mr Hingley's translation that he has done something to justify these contrasts and juxtapositions. The variations in mood and tone for once flow into one another naturally, without the grotesque stylistic anachronisms of so many versions. The oblique patterns of Chekhov's conversations, where answer seldom matches question, and those scenes where two characters pursue separate lines of thought, but still remain in dialogue, often come out in translation as unrelated

    strands, haphazardly interwoven. Here the ghost of the 'give-and-take' that animates these conversations is delicately recreated.

    This is achieved largely by a common-sense approach. Mr Hingley dispenses almost entirely with the Russian patronymic and carefully adapts titles: for diminutives he usually finds an equivalent affectionate

    epithet. For an English audience the gain in comprehensibility is con?

    siderable; and the dissipation of the spurious Russian exotic atmosphere is

    only to be welcomed. The subtleties of the Russian forms of address have been often exaggerated so that there is no great loss even for the pedant. For the idioms, puns and banalities in which these plays abound Mr

    Hingley has a happy knack of finding a close English equivalent?though perhaps Simple Simon is a rather weak rendering of Yepikhodov's nick?

    name, 'Twenty-two Misfortunes'. One minor quibble: he translates the

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    Article Contentsp. 493p. 494

    Issue Table of ContentsThe Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 44, No. 103 (Jul., 1966), pp. i-iii+285-533+i-xVolume Information [pp. iii-x]Front Matter [pp. i-iii]The Genesis of the Balkan Peoples [pp. 285-297]The Germanisms in Smoler's Dictionary (Njemsko-Serski Sownik, 1843) [pp. 298-305]Arzamas: Portrait of a Literary Society [pp. 306-326]The Tragic Element in Smrt Smail-age engia [pp. 327-336]Ivan Bunin through the Eyes of Zinaida Gippius [pp. 337-350]Zamyatin, Wells and the Utopian Literary Tradition [pp. 351-360]The Style of Isaak Babel' [pp. 361-380]The Archpriest Avvakum and His Scottish Contemporaries [pp. 381-402]The Rumanian-Italian Agreement of 23 September 1914 [pp. 403-420]Sverdlov: Bolshevik Party Organiser [pp. 421-443]Daniel Ernst Jablonski and Education in Lower Lusatia [pp. 444-453]Attempts to Revive Freemasonry in Russia [pp. 454-472]MarginaliaIosif Khristianovich Hamel' (1788-1861) [pp. 473-474]The May Crisis of 1938: A Rejoinder to Mr Wallace [pp. 475-480]A Reply to Mr Watt [pp. 481-486]Frantiek Langer (1888-1965): An Appreciation [pp. 486-490]

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