Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fact or Fiction?

Think about something you have created that you were willing to defend.  Was it a paper, a painting, or maybe a song? For Tolstoy it was War and Peace.

There was controversy between critics when the novel War and Peace was first published.  Some critics proclaimed it historically inaccurate and condemned the novel for being more fiction than fact.  They accused Tolstoy of not fully depicting the hardships in Russia during this time period.  Critics believed that it was more for entertainment rather than historical fiction.

Tolstoy’s essay, "Some Words about War and Peace" (1868) ,  was written to dispute his critics.  In response to criticism that the novel did not display the suffering of the Russian people at the time, Tolstoy wrote, “on studying letters, diaries, and traditions, I did not find the horrors of such savagery to a greater extent than I find them now, or at any other period.”  He goes on to argue that the universal truths that are found in the novel can be relatable to everyday life.  This helps the reader understand the message of the novel rather than get caught up in the historical details. Tolstoy wrote the novel as art to explain history, not as a historical novel to be portrayed as art.  

Below is a link to sections of his essay:


  1. What a wise last line! Tolstoy's novel not only provides the 21st century reader with a clear historical context but also develops characters that struggle with dilemmas still present in the lives of many, today. It is pretty incredible that, as a 21st century college student, I can relate to Tolstoy's characters of 19th century Russia.

  2. Obviously I don't have the perspective of Tolstoy's 19th century contemporaries, but I think he did an excellent job capturing the spirit of the war, as well as many of the facts. Of course the novel is art, and not simply history, but I think that when read in conjunction with other historical works, it has the potential to be a valid source of history, too.