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“Original” War and Peace Slimmer, Happier, Controversial

Can’t stomach the idea of wading through Leo Tolstoy‘s 1500-plus page classic? Well, thanks to the work of scholar Evelina Zaidenshnur and the translation by Andrew Bromfield, you’ll be able to read the author’s purported “first draft” of the novel – some 600 pages lighter, with the removal of Tolstoy’s philosophical musings and the prospect of a happy ending, reports the Independent on Sunday. The new book, to be published in the UK by Fourth Estate in April, was the life’s work of the Russian scholar, who for 50 years pored over thousands of pages to assemble Tolstoy’s first draft, matching different inks, changes in handwriting and types of paper to piece together the author’s earliest version.

Not everyone, however, is pleased. Academics such as Tony Briggs, emeritus professor of Russian language and literature and author of a bestselling translation of the novel, fear many will be tempted to settle for what they regard as an unfinished version. “To claim that it’s the ‘original’ is entirely spurious and is simply selling the novel short,” he said. “This is a sanitised Hollywood happy-ending version where everyone lives happily ever after. But frankly this is an outrage and no one should be misled. The moment Tolstoy thought of these ideas, he rejected them and went on to rewrite them.”

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