December 10, 2015

Tolstoy’s great-great-granddaughter organizes four-day marathon reading of War and Peace


Yesterday, Cosmonaut Sergei Volkov read part of the novel from the International Space Station. (via BBC)

Sergei Volkov, a cosmonaut, read part of the novel from the International Space Station. (via BBC)

In Russia, yesterday marked the first day of what will be a week-long marathon reading of Leo Tolstoy‘s War and Peace. Coordinated by Fekla Tolstaya, Tolstoy’s great-great-granddaughter, the event seeks to finish reading the novel’s more than half a million words by the end of the day on Friday, December 11th.

The Guardian‘s Alison Flood reports that over 1,300 readers in 30 cities across Russia are participating in the record-breaking project, including an Oscar-winner (Andrzej Wajda), a cosmonaut (Sergei Volkovand), the director of the Bolshoi Ballet (Vladimir Urin), and a member of Russian parliament (Valentina Matvienko). The readings will be continuously streamed on Russian state television, as well as on an event-specific website and Russian social networking site Vkontakte.

Tolstaya told The Guardian:

“This is the biggest reading of War and Peace in the world—a four-day marathon, uniting the whole country and people all over the world. It is very democratic: we can have a minister of culture reading next to a student from Vladivostok, a great actor then an old lady reading from a library in Siberia.”

More than 6,000 Russians applied to be part of the marathon, which concludes Russia’s Year of Literature celebrations. Over the next three days, the chosen 1,300 will each read a two-to-three minute excerpt from the novel on-camera at “carefully chosen” (ahem) museums, libraries and cultural institutions across the nation. Tolstaya and members from the Russian branch of the family will be reading their excerpts from Yasnaya Polyana, the estate where Count Tolstoy wrote War and Peace. 

Tolstaya hopes that marathon reading will unite from both without and within—she seeks to underscore Russian’s cultural contributions to the world at large, while also reminding Russians they have something to celebrate (a great novel written in 1869!). As she explained to The Guardian: “People argue with each other when they speak about politics, [but] culture, our cultural heritage, great Russian literature—this is the place where we all unite.”

You can watch a livestream of the readings four-day long pro-Russia commercial here.


Ena Brdjanovic is Director of Digital Media at Melville House.