Friday Buzz - War & P has Tolstoy rolling in grave

Oh, for God’s sake: Just when you thought publishing couldn’t get any sillier with the scrotum controversy and crasser with O.J. Simpson and Judith Regan, HarperCollins decides to trim down War & Peace and add a happy ending.

All in the name of reaching the “masses:”

A spokesman for HarperCollins predicted it would have mass appeal. "The new version is of course aimed at students of Tolstoy," she said. "But we are sure it will also prove fascinating to the general reader."

Bullsh*t. They don’t give a damn about reaching students or otherwise enriching the minds of “the general reader,” as the spokesperson so condescendingly puts it.

And how about this for advertising-cum-propaganda?

HarperCollins…describes the novel's brevity as "something to celebrate" while in Russia, the book is already being marketed as "half as long and twice as interesting" — despite the new book still running to a challenging 1,000 pages.

Any schools, any readers who allow HarperCollins to make one dime off this stunt are worse than fools. They are contributing further to our cultural demise. Maybe they'll PhotoShop Tolsty's photo, too, to make his looks more appealing to the masses. Give him a nose job and haircut and get rid of some of those wrinkles.

Hey, folks, it’s just another new frontier in the Land of Commodification. Why not ruin a piece of literature to make more money? Religion, wildlife -- hell, people sell their own psyches for a buck. Go out and make it a great day!!!

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Brandon said...

I'm considering purchasing "War and Peace," but I'm concerned about picking a crappy translation. Thanks for alerting me to this--I'll be sure to steer clear of it.

Literary Feline said...

Oh, how I wish this was just a hoax! It's simply ridiculous. I'm with you, LK. I hope the idea falls flat on its face and no one puts out any money for it.

Andi said...

Mmmhmm. I vomited in my mouth a little when I read this story earlier in the day. How utterly ridiculous.

Dark Orpheus said...

Oh god, they Disneyfied "War and Peace"!

I think it's one of those times when it's good that Tolstoy's dead and can't witness these pea-brained decisions.

Courtney said...


sassymonkey said...

Good grief. I hadn't heard about this.

d. chedwick bryant said...

Half as long and twice as interesting--that is foul.

what is next, Anna K?

or how about cutting some Chekov short stories a bit?

what is the point of introducing great lit to the masses if it is destroyed first?

The disneyfication of everything. damn you walt, for what you did to Cinderella!

Dorothy W. said...

People have done this sort of thing before ... not to War and Peace that I know of, but to other books and authors. Not that that makes it acceptable. I just hope they clearly mark the book, so people won't think they are getting the real thing.

Orange Blossom Goddess (aka Heather) said...

I was going to post exactly what Brandon said. People have recently been recommending War and Peace to me but I don't know what translation to purchase!!

Stefanie said...

OMG! What a horrible thing to do. How can they even call it War and Peace? It won't be the same book at all!

Lesley said...

Isn't that ridiculous? Hard to believe it's not some Internet hoax.

David said...

It's his first draft of the book, which they say was completed "but never published". You'd think a publishing company would realize how the writing process goes: drafts are amended and updated until the author comes to what they consider the finished product.

"Original Version" my foot -- more like "unfinished version".