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Tolstoy Together 2020

Hosted By Yiyun Li

Share this book club

Tolstoy Together began on March 18, 2020, with an invitation to read and discuss War and Peace with Yiyun Li and A Public Space. Envisioned as a moment each day to gather together as a community, the virtual book club continued for 85 days—a remarkable experience that has been compiled into a book, Tolstoy Together: 85 Days of War and Peace with Yiyun Li, published by A Public Space Books.

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March 18, 2020

Dear Friends,

In these unsettled times, like many of you I have been looking for substance in my bookcase. One doesn’t need to look far—there sit the books by Tolstoy, “the master-recorder of realities,” as Stefan Zweig describes him.

In these coming weeks and months, when every one of us has to turn ourselves into a master of living through a harsh reality, I wonder if I could invite you to read and discuss War and Peace with me. I have found that the more uncertain life is, the more solidity and structure Tolstoy’s novels provide. In these times, one does want to read an author who is so deeply moved by the world that he could appear unmoved in his writing.

War and Peace is a perfect book to read together for the duration of our necessary isolation. My edition (translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky) is about 1,200 pages. It will take us about 30 minutes to read 12-15 pages a day (much less than the time many Americans spend on social media), and we will finish the novel in three months—just in time for summer, and with our spirits restored.

Ever yours,
Yiyun Li

How It Will Work

Beginning Wednesday, March 18, 2020, I'll select a passage to share with you here as well as on A Public Space's Twitter and Instagram accounts. We hope you'll share your thoughts and responses, and ask questions too. We'll be using #TolstoyTogether to organize the ongoing conversation. There will also be a weekly newsletter, sharing an overview of the week's reading, including highlights from our conversation.

What You Will Need

A copy of War and Peace! Any translation will do; I’ll be reading from the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation. To prepare for the start of the book club on Wednesday (and support your local independent bookstore), order your copy (print or e-book) here or here or an audiobook here. Your public library might also have copies (print and e-book) available too. For anyone unable to access a book, a free PDF is available through Project Gutenberg here.

Yiyun Li

is the author of several novels, including The Book of Goose (FSG) and Where Reasons End, which received the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award; the memoir Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life (both Random House); and Tolstoy Together (A Public Space Books). She is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, Windham-Campbell Prize, and the PEN/Malamud Award, among other honors. A contributing editor to A Public Space, she teaches at Princeton University.

Leo Tolstoy

(1828–1910) was one of the great Russian novelists of the nineteenth century, an acclaimed realist whose pivotal works include War and Peace and Anna Karenina.


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