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Heroes & History: Lessons for Leadership from Tolstoy's War & Peace
It is at once a book of ideas and an epic portrait of ordinary life amid extraordinary circumstances. Though strongly impelled to do good, Andrey possesses a cold, cynical intelligence that sees through the self-serving pretensions and illusions of the men he encounters at court and in the army—not to mention those of his tyrannical father and pious sister. He is incapable of playing politics or indulging in sentimental delusions; he would rather do his duty, fight—and die.
War and Peace
Lev Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy was born into a large and wealthy Russian landowning family in , on the family estate of Yasnaya Polyana. The family moved to Moscow when Tolstoy was nine. Shortly afterward, his father was murdered while traveling. Being orphaned before the age of ten, albeit without financial worries, left Tolstoy with an acute awareness of the power of death—an idea central to all his great works. Though an intelligent child, Tolstoy had little interest in academics. His aunt had to work hard to persuade him to go to university, and he failed his entrance exam on his first attempt.
War and Peace , historical novel by Leo Tolstoy , originally published as Voyna i mir in — War and Peace begins in the Russian city of St. Most of the characters are introduced at a party, including Pierre Bezukhov , Andrey Bolkonsky , and the Kuragin and Rostov families. Much of the novel focuses on the interactions between the Bezukhovs, Bolkonskys , and the Rostovs. Andrey is then injured at the Battle of Austerlitz and presumed dead, until he arrives home to his wife, Lise, who dies during childbirth soon after. Pierre, meanwhile, has married Helene Kuragina.
It is regarded as a central work of world literature and one of Tolstoy's finest literary achievements. The novel chronicles the French invasion of Russia and the impact of the Napoleonic era on Tsarist society through the stories of five Russian aristocratic families. Portions of an earlier version, titled The Year ,  were serialized in The Russian Messenger from to , then published in its entirety in Tolstoy said War and Peace is "not a novel, even less is it a poem, and still less a historical chronicle. Instead, he regarded Anna Karenina as his first true novel. Tolstoy began writing War and Peace in , the year that he finally married and settled down at his country estate.
The characters in War and Peace endure extreme experiences, and emerge at the end as quite different people. The miracle of the book is that the Natasha who falls in love with anyone and everyone in the ballrooms of the opening is recognisably the same woman who withdraws from society at the end. This is the story of a group of people living within a society. It understands and sympathises with those ideas but it excuses itself from repeating them. After pages, you will agree that this is the best way to write a novel. Its details are not exquisite recreations of lost practice, but ways in which an individual psychology can engage with the real world. It is about history, and both the tsar and Napoleon make awesome appearances.
Sarah Hudspith does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. War and Peace is more than a novel. Central to the book is his antipathy towards the way in which historians of his time presented events as entirely influenced by powerful people: monarchs, politicians and generals. Tolstoy felt that human history was an infinite chain of small, insignificant moments in which all individuals, mighty or humble, were involved. War and Peace reflects this view through the characters and their interactions. To drive home his point, Tolstoy also inserts explanatory essays at various stages in the text.