Summiting Everest

War and Peace - Henry Gifford, Aylmer Maude, Louise Maude, Leo Tolstoy
An unqualified work of genius.
I read Anna Karenina last year and enjoyed the philosophical aspects of that novel. Not having read much Tolstoy before, I was surprised by this aspect of his writing. In War and Peace, there is even more to contemplate in this regard. In some ways, the book is a muddle of writing techniques and ideas, in a way that reminds me of Moby Dick - a comparison that you should understand is entirely complementary, as I love and highly esteem Moby Dick. War and Peace has a vast story going on in the foreground, with heavy narrative commentary that expounds on the historical events of the time, the folly of behaviors surrounding the time period (especially among the aristocracy and military leadership), and a deep philosophical analysis of history and determination of historical events. 
I enjoyed the wry narrative voice Tolstoy employs during much of the book, so much so that during many points I laughed aloud and said to myself, "This is satire! It's a comedy." I'm not certain to what extent Tolstoy intended to strip his characters of all noble action, intended to show them as whimsical fools, however, there it is - people making and breaking their emotional connections with one another as the wind blows. If his point is to expose our human emotional decision making as faulty, he certainly succeeds. His main protagonist, Pierre, for example, behaves like an idiot for most of the story, so that the reader has to read the events surrounding his life with one hand clutching the book and the other covering his eyes. There is so much going on and the story plays out on so many levels with so many lovely "momentary sketches" used to illustrate a telling point in the narrative, that it's easy to miss the fact that Tolstoy is and was an absolute master - a master of description and a master of the grand structure. He must have been a hell of a chess player.  
My head explodes thinking that he put this entire puzzle together without the aid of a word processor. It reminds me of the time Hemingway's wife lost all his original manuscripts. If Hadley has lost War and Peace, I think Papa would have gone all William Tell on her ala Naked Lunch
I bought Tolstoy's A Confession on the cheap yesterday, and hope to squeeze it into my reading this year. Apparently, Tolstoy fell into a funk after writing his two famous novels, and spent the rest of his life working out his moral dilemmas.