| 10.2°C Dublin

Close

Premium


Getting ready for the long haul with Tolstoy by my side

Johnny Duhan


Close

'Something that most readers may not be aware of is that Tolstoy rated all of his own novels at the lower end of the scale of literature, placing a couple of his short stories above them'

'Something that most readers may not be aware of is that Tolstoy rated all of his own novels at the lower end of the scale of literature, placing a couple of his short stories above them'

'Something that most readers may not be aware of is that Tolstoy rated all of his own novels at the lower end of the scale of literature, placing a couple of his short stories above them'

We've been getting a lot of advice recently on books that might help us get through the long isolated hours of being cooped up in our cabins during the corona curfew.

I was too busy having breakfast after my long coastal trek to and from early Mass last week (before the church lockdown) to take in Ryan Tubridy's recommendations, but the list that the novelist John Banville provided on Brendan O'Connor's Saturday edition of RTE's Weekend on One stopped me in my tracks. This was mainly because Banville prefaced his choice of titles with the suggestion that readers avoid trivia and go for meatier books of substance - a sentiment I agreed with, despite recalling that one man's meat is another man's poison.

Among his picklist, Tolstoy's War and Peace stood out for me. Having read the novel twice over my lifetime, I agree that it is one of the most absorbing marathon reads of all time, leaving us with an abiding memory of the insanity of war and the importance of neighbourly love. I enjoyed Anna Karenina also, even though I was aware that it was written primarily as a moral antidote to Flaubert's Madam Bovary. But that was Tolstoy's way - imparting didactic messages in what, for him, were merely soap opera tales of Russian and European life in his time.