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New Left Review 46, July-August 2007


Within the epic sweep of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Hayden White argues, three genres are braided together: historical, novelistic and philosophical. If the former two—and the battles, loves and deaths they recount—continue the line of European realism, in the third Tolstoy presents history as a force beyond human control, in a bid to dismantle ideologies of progress.

HAYDEN WHITE

AGAINST HISTORICAL REALISM

A Reading of ‘War and Peace’

We Russians in general do not know how to write novels in the sense in which this genre is understood in Europe. [1] Leo Tolstoy, ‘Drafts for an Introduction to War and Peace’, in Tolstoy, War and Peace: The Maude Translation, Backgrounds and Sources, Criticism, 2nd edition, New York 1996, p. 1087. All subsequent citations are from this edition, henceforth wp. This article originally appeared as ‘Contro il realismo storico’, in Franco Moretti, ed., Il romanzo, vol. V: Lezioni, Turin 2003, pp. 221–37.
Tolstoy

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