War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

“An epic novel (published serially, 1864-9) by the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910). He originally planned to call it 1825, then, as he realized the core of his story lay during the Napoleonic Wars, he called it 1805, and this was the title used in the initial published episodes. At one point he re-titled it All’s Well That Ends Well, conceiving at that point that it would end happily. But as Tolstoy became more and more immersed in developing his philosophy of history, and his theories on the nature of war, he settled on the final sweeping title.

There have been two film versions. The first (1956) is a Hollywood production, directed by King Vidor, and lasts nearly three and a half hours. The second (1967) is a much-admired Soviet production directed by Sergei Bondarchuk; it was originally in four parts, totalling nearly nine hours, and was shown in the UK in two parts totalling over seven hours, reduced to something over six hours for the USA. The BBC TV serial of the novel, adapted by Jack Pulman and with Anthony Hopkins as Pierre, was broadcast in 1972-3. Tolstoy’s novel also formed the basis of the opera, opus 91 (1941-53), by Prokofiev (1891-1953) to a libretto by the composer and Mira Mendelson.”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

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