SERIOUS EXISTENTIAL DILEMMA.

[i know this is two posts in one day. but i am having a CRISIS, people. this is an EMERGENCY!]

I am an idiot.

As many of you know either from my packing vlog or my count-ups at the end of each blog post, I am attempting to read the entirety of Leo Tolstoy’s masterpiece War and Peace this summer. My reasoning was sound; I am young, tempestuous, and out to seek my Great Perhaps- what better time to read the ultimate human-versus-the-world novel? Furthermore, as much work as is being done, I do have ample time in the evenings devoid of TV (and often power, for that matter) and wanted to spend this time devouring something that would dually keep most of the dust bunnies out of my academic cranium and force me to question, deeply, the meaning of War and the root of Peace.

I even have another, perfectly legitimate reason; one of my bucket list wishes for my lifetime is to see every single film with Audrey Hepburn- including the ones from the early 1950s where she only has small roles. One of her lesser-known films was, in fact, a horrendous adaptation of none other than Tolstoy’s classic. The poor adaptation, so I’ve read in the biography Enchantment by Donald Spoto, is due to the poor direction, production, and overwhelming number of screenwriters (who never communicated with each other). In the knowledge of my borderline-obsession with one miss Hepburn, my most wonderful Grandmother gave me a copy of the VHS a few years ago (thanks Mema!). Determined, as ever, to read the book prior to seeing the film (despite its rumored horrible-ness (which I have a Ph. D in (and if you get that reference, ten points to Gryffindor!))) I promised myself four years ago I would someday read the novel.

And let’s be real, I’m a pretentious-Mount-Holyoke-collegiate-Ivory-Tower-dweller. I want to read the damn book to say I’ve read the (supposedly) Greatest (and Longest) Book Ever Written in All of History.

Which is why, nearly a month ago now, I walked down to the second-hand bookshop in my hometown and paid $2.50 for a copy of the Barnes & Noble Classic: War and Peace.

Now, after all this hullabaloo about me wanting to be an authentic scholar, true-to-the-book Audrey fan, and to explore this famous commentary on war, one would think I would have done my research on the translation I wanted.

Alas, here I sit, humbled again by my own lack of foresight.

Whilst looking to procure a copy I merely assumed one in English would be enough, so when the time came to decide upon which shelved copy in the local joint I went with the copy that (a) did not look like someone had puked all over the cover, and (b) was three bucks cheaper than the other.

Famous last mistake.

As I’ve been trucking through this rendition of the book, I marveled at its clarity and brevity (being only 696 pages). Then, looking at the back cover, my eyes fell upon treacherously overlooked, drastically important words:

Translated and Abridged by Princess Alexandra Kropotkin.

Translated and abridged. ABRIDGED? ABRIDGED?!?!?!

In a fit of fury and disbelief I whipped out my still-unnamed laptop, willing the excruciatingly slow internet to load my search on the Kropotkin translation (I dared not write abridgment) of the work.

Dear reader, how I wish I could tell you it was a mistake, a misprint, or loose translation of the wretched term. Alas, this is not so. I am indeed reading an abridged version of the book I so desperately wanted to be genuine on.

The stuffy academic reviews of said abomination all ripped it to shreads, declaring the work to maintain the poignancy and ethic of the story, but in its shredding of an extra 600 pages lacking in dignity and …. I can hardly say it … appropriate for high school students.

This, my friends, was the last straw. To hell with that! I am an independent scholarly woman who need not read ABRIDGED Russian literature how dare one even ASSUME I COULD BE SO SHALLOW AND INAUTHENTIC AND NOW I WILL NEVER GET A PH. D BECAUSE IF IT GETS OUT THAT I AM A FAKE I AM DONE FOR, FOREVER, THAT’S IT, I MIGHT AS WELL DROP OUT OF SCHOOL NOW BECAUSE WHO WILL EVER TAKE ME SERIOUSLY IF YOUR PROFESSOR HAS NOT EVEN READ WAR AND PEACE WHAT AN IMBECILE, WHAT A NINCOMPOOP LACKING IN THE CALIBER NECESSARY TO SUCCEED IN THIS CUT-THROAT AND ELITE REALM OF SMARTY-PANTS NESS?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

One might infer I was a little, teensy bit distraught.

After some assuring words from my housemates (who patiently endured my threats to burn the book, hurl it against the wall, or swear off all Russian literature) we came up with three potential solutions to my existential dilemma, which I shall now present for you:

  1. Find an e-reader complete version of the original 1,700 pages and read the entire book as a PDF on my laptop. Pros: I retain my dignity and enhance my credibility as a certified smart-ass nincompoop whose sole goal in life is to out-do her professors. Also, the copy I found for free is the Maude translation, recommended by the aforementioned stuffy academic reviewer. Cons: backlight is bad for already-bad eyes AND I won’t always have my computer with me AND it’s going to take at least eight hours to download. Not to mention there is no comfort like holding a book.
  2. Wait and do not read the book until I can find another copy… which may mean waiting until our next voyage to Kampala (which is, in all likelihood, going to be in late July). Or even worse, wait until I’m back in the states and starting school again.
  3. Just read what I have.

Of course, I might combine the two options and read what I have and fill in later with the passages Princess Kropotkin cut out…

I’m still not sure what to do, and since this is THE WORST AND BIGGEST PROBLEM I HAVE EVER ENCOUNTERED I’m just going to curl up in a crying ball until someone Important tells me what I should Think and Act Upon.

(but seriously, suggestions?)

current jam: bon iver, to still my deeply disturbed soul.

pages read: TWENTY-SEVEN FAKE ONES.

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3 thoughts on “SERIOUS EXISTENTIAL DILEMMA.

  1. Jennifer says:

    I say . . . wait until you can get your hands on a real copy. Spread the word around, someone near you might have one they are willing to part with.
    I’m planning on reading Anna Karenina myself over the summer, I should definitely get started soon though if I intend to finish before school starts.

  2. Gann Herman says:

    oh dear oh dear oh dear (note sympathetic murmurs while hiding grin): DO NOT KEEP READING THE ABRIDGEMENT. I’ll buy a copy and bring it for Rosemary to send up on the MAF plane

  3. Hetali says:

    OH NOES. I think one has to go back to your statement of purpose – sadly, all of your reasons for wanting to read the story seem to indicate a need to stick with the full version. if you were just broadly interested in the society of the time or wanted a bare-bones, knowledge, I would say forget about it… but you, dearest, are in a sticky situation. there’s a GREAT used bookstore here that specializes in such things as this – want me to see if they have an original copy?

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