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« : 13.02.16 at 19:17 »
Clive James: how did the BBC’s War And Peace measure up?
Our columnist has been reading Tolstoy’s masterpiece for half his life, and seen every major adaptation: did the BBC do it justice?
Saturday 13 February 2016 09.00 GMT
James Norton’s Prince Andrei asks Lily James’s Natasha to dance. Photograph: Laurie Sparham/BBC
|The BBC’s lavish, sexy, heart-rending, head-spinning and generally not-half-bad adaptation of Tolstoy’s vast novel War And Peace finished last weekend, so this weekend there is nothing to do except discuss whether Natasha was credible when she fell so suddenly for the odious Anatole Kuragin, and to start waiting until someone adapts it again. At my age, I doubt that I’ll live to see the next attempt, but I’m definitely thinking about reading the book one more time. It really is that good: good enough to get involved with again, even if it’s the last thing you do.
On a shelf near where I sit writing this, there are half a dozen different editions of the book, and I’ve been reading one or other of them for half my life. Despite the heaps of evidence that Tolstoy was in reality half crackers, you would swear from the pages of War And Peace that he was God’s stenographer. As Isaac Babel said, if the world could write by itself, it would write like Tolstoy. So why bother with the screen adaptations at all? Well, there’s the sheer fun of watching thousands of clever people pouring millions into doing the impossible. And sometimes they can add a dimension to the studies of character, even though they always subtract a dimension from the battlefield spectacle, no matter how much they spend.