Saturday, November 26, 2011

The unfinishable War and Peace (In Russian) Project

War and Peace is not the longest novel in the world; it's more like #17. I've never read it, but always meant to. Really.

Somewhere along the line, I got it into my head that I wanted to read it in the original language, which is going to be much, much harder. I studied Russian in college, but that was ten years ago, and I've lost a lot of it. I can't speak it anymore, but I can read it (slowly, and with a dictionary at hand).

It's been a little tricky finding a format that I'm actually likely to read. Four fat volumes make print awkward (too big!); so did reading a sketchy Kindle edition* on the iPhone, whose limited display area forced me to flip back pages far too often (too small!).

Now I have a real Kindle, with a better screen, and it occurred to me to look for public domain digitizations through WorldCat,, and Google. (I already knew I could get the English from Project Gutenberg; I'd been using it in lieu of a Russian/English dictionary.) Lo! They led me to:
I found .mobi's on, but their conversion process must have gone south on the Cyrillic: there are tons of numbers and letters where there should be letters. It's very sad. So, .pdf's it is, which are unfortunately less customizable in font size etc., but maybe I'll get used to them.

Over on, Leigh Butler has been blogging her first time reading A Song of Ice And Fire;** it seems like a pretty good format on which to base blogging my first time reading War and Peace. What seems particularly useful is that she's thought to write a summary of what she read, so that she can keep track of what's going on; I am very likely to forget what's happened already, especially given the huge cast of characters.

And, er, especially given how very, very likely I am to set it down for long periods of time. I'm not so good on the whole finish what you start thing. But I am telling myself: one is allowed to take a very long time to accomplish an item from one's "Things To Do Before I Die" list. There's only the one deadline, and if you don't make it... well, nobody's going to have opportunity to scold you, are they?

* I'm also not entirely sure that sketchy Kindle copy won't go the way of 1984 - it disappeared from Amazon's listings for a while, and then later reappeared under a slightly different title. Suspicious. (I never finished the sample, so never popped the $2 to examine the entire content - for all I know, it might not even be all four volumes. The product description is virtually nonexistent. It makes me unwilling to shell out any money at all, if I can find an alternative.)

** I had been dying for her to get to that one part near the end of the first book - you know the one I mean if you've read it, and if you haven't, you'll know it when you get there - for MONTHS. I lived to see her reaction. It did not disappoint: it was just like mine.

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