a site by John Cobley

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Tolstoy’s Writing in War & Peace: Part 1

Translation and style analysis

This is the first of five studies of Leo Tolstoy’s style in W&P. Each of them will focus on an excerpt depicting one of the novel’s five major characters. Despite its length--1,000 pages in my Russian version, 1,200-1,500 in my English versions—War & Peace contains passages of finely-worked writing more often found in short stories and poetry. Four different colour highlights are used to illustrate some of Tolstoy’s techniques in this excerpt from Volume One, Part Two, Chapter 19.

John Fowles and Paul Scott: The Initial Image

Comparison of two novelists using an image to start a novel.

It’s striking that two of the best English novels from the 1960’s both evolved initially from an image that came to the authors as a vision. Novelists generally begin with a concept, a situation, or a core narrative idea, but John Fowles and Paul Scott developed their novels from an initial image. The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969) evolved from the image of a woman standing at the end of a long quay, The Jewel in the Crown (1964) from the image of a girl running.  Both novelists have described how their initial image developed into a novel: Fowles in “Notes on an Unfinished Novel”  (Harper’s Magazine,1968; Wormholes, 1998); Scott in “Method: The Mystery and the Mechanics,” My Appointment with the Muse (1986).

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