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Arthur Rankin

I really enjoyed reading War and Peace  although it took effort. My favorite translation of War and Peace is the Ann Dunnigan translation from 1968. It’s the first translation into American English. I do admit that I am biased toward the translation because it was the first version of Tolstoy that I read. Her use of American English helped me negotiate the tremendous scope of the novel, and I enjoyed referring to her list of characters, which helped me keep all the characters sorted into the correct family. Dunnigan was an actor in New York and interested in Chekhov, so she began translating the plays. I think her profession as an actor led to her sensitivity toward the characters. There are other translations to investigate as well. First of these translations is the Maude translation. They knew Tolstoy, and when they returned to Great Britain, they started a project to translate his works. Their translation can seem formal, but that makes sense considering that it was published in the 1920s. Some formality works well when reading a translation of a nineteenth-century novel, I think. Also, their translation has been revised by Oxford University Press and might be worth exploring. Rosemary Edmonds has a good translation, if you can find it. It was published in 1957; she was a specialist in translating Tolstoy, and her work is definitely readable. There are several other more recent translations (one by Anthony Briggs that received good notices and one by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky). I haven’t read them, but they may be a good choice for someone who is looking for a newer translation with updated expressions. Ultimately, I would read the Maude translation or the Dunnigan translation as first choices, and as a second choice, I would go with the Edmonds’ translation. However, these are personal reflections more than critical ones. A further thought about the Dunnigan translation occurs to me. It can be found in a Signet Classic edition that might be difficult to handle while reading. You can find a three volume hard-backed version of the Maude translation at the Everyman’s Library web page. It’s very nice and easier to handle. I hope you find a translation that you like.