OK, here’s the deal: you must never, ever turn your back on the conventional media. Though not all journalists will spin a story to give them the best hook, a lot of them will. And, to make matters worse — though different — some reporters don’t ever go back to source, just taking erroneous material someone else has written, and then layering their own stuff over the top.

Case in point: not an hour ago, I reported in this space that Leo Tolstoy’s classic War and Peace was being happied up by HarperCollins. OK, I’ll admit it: that’s what everyone was saying, and I said it too.

Then, after the piece was posted, I got to thinking: I mean, this is War and Peace, right? One of the most significant pieces of literature, evah. Who would mess with that?

So — basic, basic — I hit the HarperCollins Web site.

This new version is sure to provoke controversy. A “first draft” of the epic version known to all, it was completed in 1866 but never published. A closely guarded secret for a century and a half, the unveiling of the original version of War and Peace, with an ending different to that we all know, is of huge significance.

OK, so check it: that’s pretty much a different story, right? They’re not happying up a really long (and arguably occasionally tedious) book, they’re publishing a previously unpublished earlier draft.

That moves the whole project to a different intellectual place. HarperCollins isn’t cheapening up a classic, but offering us a new view of the workings of genius.

2 thoughts on “The New War and Peace: A Postscript”

  1. Exactly Oliver! And I agree: the stuff I’ve left in a drawer is generally in a drawer for a reason. But the piece in question relates to the one just before it: the articles I saw initially talked about a sort of War and Peace lite: reduced and simplified for the masses. How horrifying would that be? But a “lost” manuscript? That’s a different thing altogether. Is it a good thing? I don’t know. Leo may well be rolling. But from the point of view of scholarship, it’s certainly a different thing and an interesting one.

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