Two new translations of Tolstoy's "War and Peace" are being published this fall and the publishers are fighting over which version is the most authentic. (For a rundown on the controversy, see The New York Observer's "The War Over 'War and Peace.'")
Here's the deal: Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins, is calling its edition (with the red cover), translated by Andrew Bromfield, "War and Peace: Original Version." It is essentially Tolstoy's first draft. He later doubled the length of the manuscript.
Knopf's edition has been translated by the famous husband-and-wife team of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Much of the dialogue in "War and Peace" is in French, which was popular with the Russian aristocracy of the time. Knopf’s version keeps the French, and translates it into English in footnotes. Ecco's edition has less French.
So which is the "real" "War and Peace"? The Knopf edition at some 1,200 pages or the Ecco edition that is about 400 pages shorter? Others can argue but that question seems to be beside the point. The two books will get a lot more attention than either would have on its own and the competing claims can only stir up interest in the classic doorstop.