|Film adaptation rights available for the “Original Version” of Tolstoy’s WAR AND PEACE
„Less war in shorter Tolstoy classic“ (The Times, London): The most famous unread novel of world literature emerges as a sweeping family saga. And here is the real coup – Leo Tolstoy’s authorship is uncontested. Exactly this version would have been read since 150 years if the author had found a publisher already in 1866.
The short blurb for the Russian publisher’s surprise-bestseller—a previously unknown version of Tolstoy’s classic War and Peace—reads. “It’s two times shorter and five times more interesting. There are almost no philosophical digressions. It’s 100 times easier to read. Much more ‘peace’ and less ‘war.’ Prince Andrei Bolkonsky and Petya Rostov remain alive.” Translations have been published in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, South Korea, and the Netherlands. Harper Collins, London, brought out an English translation this year, and Harper Collins, New York will follow this year. The Times of London said: “Purists may well cringe, but mortals will be overjoyed.”
The reason for this is that the new version, which is only 800 pages long, differs fundamentally from the 1,600-page version we know, but which hardly anyone seems to have read all the way through. Over the course of 50 years, a literary researcher at the Tolstoy Institute in Moscow, Evelina Zaidenshnur, pieced the manuscript together from over 5,000 handwritten pages.
In 1866, Tolstoy wrote “The End” at the bottom of the manuscript and offered it—unsuccessfully—to publishers in Moscow. Embittered, he withdrew to his estate at Yasnaya Polyana and reworked the text again and again for the next two years, doubling it in size. Tolstoy added countless historical, political and philosophical digressions and discussions to the novel, which, in the end, made it read like a long, drawn-out series of boring essays for long stretches. That is the reason that many Russians—enthusiastic readers though they may be—gave for skipping over several hundred pages of Tolstoy’s novel.
But now there is the original version. Epically boring scenes are revealed to be lively masterpieces, containing characters with much more psychological depth, more comic detail and human irony. Now for the first time we can read about Rostov’s initiation in a bordello, and get to see many other “sensitive” scenes that fell victim to the editorial “political correctness” of Tolstoy’s wife and professor Strakhov.
That’s not the best part. The novel closes with “two weddings and no funeral.” Natasha Rostov does not become the motherly figure of the epilogue of the overly long canonical version, losing her old “fiery, lively vivaciousness” in the process. Instead, Natasha and Pierre Bezukhov get married, as do Nikolai Rostov and Mary Bolkonsky. Andrei Bolkonsky and Petya Rostov remain among the living.
A dusty classic reveals itself to be a fast-paced, pleasurable read with a “Happy Ending.” This is more than reason enough to follow the two previous film versions of War and Peace—the Dino de Laurentiis version of 1956 (with Audrey Hepburn, Anita Ekberg, Mel Ferrer and Henry Fonda) and the 1968 Oscar-winning version by the Russian director Sergei Bondarchuk—with a new one, timed, perhaps, to coincide with the hundredth anniversary of Tolstoy’s death: 20 November 2010.