From Publishers Weekly
British scholar Briggs unveils his lucid new translation of Tolstoy's masterpiece-the first in almost 40 years-to a slightly anxious audience, from first-timers who, balking at the amount of time required by this massive yet startlingly intricate work, want to ensure they are reading the best translation available, to purists who worry that clunky modern prose will replace the cadences of earlier translations. But these concerns melt away after the first 100 pages of this volume. Briggs's descriptions are crisper and the dialogue is sharper, with fewer "shall's," "shan't's" and "I say!'s" than the Garnett, Maude, or Edmonds translations, leaving readers free to enjoy the rich and complex plot, vivid characters and profound insights into war and the nature of power. There are some awkward spots: Briggs claims his earthy rendering of soldierly banter is more realistic than earlier, genteel translators', but it reads distractingly stagy: "Give 'im a right thumpin', we did." It's also a shame to have lost Tolstoy's use of French, not only in the mouths of his characters, but also in the essays, as when he plays with Napoleon's famous "sublime to the ridiculous" quote. Briggs will face competition next year when Pevear and Volokhonsky release their new translation, but for now, this is the most readable translation on the market.
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From Library Journal
Thanks to British narrator Frederick Davidson's performance, it is safe to say that there will not be a better recording of Tolstoy's masterpiece for some time. The heart of this drama is the metamorphosis of five familiesAsome peasant, some aristocraticAamid the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. Each individual is immersed in experiences and conversations elucidating Tolstoy's themes of self-sacrifice and self-indulgence, anguish and ecstasy, diplomacy and deception, and religion and perdition. The complexities of character and plot are sometimes enigmatic, and names are often exhausting to recollect, but the genius of this book is everlasting. The impressive dialog sparkles with humor and wit, and the vivid scenes of battle are riveting. An entire universe is created by one of the foremost thinkers of the 19th century, and Davidson's exquisite narration heightens the perfection of this novel, regarded as one of the greatest in literature. Highly recommended for all collections.ABarbara Mann, Adelphi Univ., Garden City, NY
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.