Watch War and Peace unfold through the day
On 1 January, Radio 4 is broadcasting a ten hour dramatisation of War and Peace, on air, on the Radio 4 website and on Twitter.
The ten episodes run through the day, starting at 9 in the morning and ending at 9.30pm, only breaking for the News and other programmes. See the day’s schedule here.
The Russian epic is taking over the Radio 4 Twitter account, with tweets written by David Schneider (The Day Today, I’m Alan Partridge) - the perfect solution if you've consistently failed to read the book.
Or you can watch the story unfold on this page - we'll be updating through the day with family trees, battle plans and audio.
You should meet the cast ...
And the families - you'll be getting to know them very well
We follow these two through thick and thin ...
Napoleon ramps up his determination to conquer Russia
When Captain Denisov recalls the Battle of Austerlitz
Napoleon's designs on Russia form the backbone of War and Peace
Hear the episodes so far ...
The programmes will be available for 30 days. The podcast will be available to download for 14 days - then you can keep them forever.
When old Prince Bolkonsky hears worrying news from Austerlitz
Tolstoy's New Year Resolutions 1 - Keep an open mind
We can learn a lot about the art of living from Tolstoy's War and Peace and from the life of the master novelist himself.
One of Tolstoy's greatest gifts was his ability and willingness to change his mind based on new experiences. The horrific bloodshed he witnessed while fighting in the Crimean War in the 1850s turned him into a lifelong pacifist. In 1857, after seeing a public execution by guillotine in Paris, he became a convinced opponent of the state and its laws, believing that governments were not only brutal, but essentially served the interests of the rich and powerful. Tolstoy was on the road to becoming an anarchist.
Tolstoy's New Year Resolutions 2 - Practise empathy
Tolstoy displayed an unusual capacity to empathise by stepping into the shoes of people whose lives were vastly different from his own.
In the 1860s, he not only adopted peasant dress but began working alongside the newly emancipated labourers on his estate. For a blue-blooded count, such actions were nothing short of remarkable. Tolstoy believed you could never understand the reality of other people's lives unless you had a taste of it yourself.
Meanwhile, away from the battlefield, love blooms
When Andrei proposes to Natasha
Tolstoy's New Year Resolutions 3 - Master the Art of Simple Living
Following a mental breakdown in the late 1870s, Tolstoy rejected all organised religion, including the Orthodox Church he had grown up in.
He adopted a revolutionary brand of Christianity based on spiritual and material austerity. He gave up drinking, smoking, and became a vegetarian. He also inspired the creation of utopian communities of simple, self-sufficient living, where property was held in common. These "Tolstoyan" communities spread around the world and lead Gandhi to found an ashram in 1910 named the Tolstoy Farm.
When Anatole sets his sights on Natasha
The Great Comet of 1811 was seen across the world and noted by painters and artists, including William Blake. Its sighting in War and Peace was thought by many to have portended Napoleon's invasion. Read more at Wikipedia
When Prince Bolkonsky dies ... and a bit of old Russia too
The Battle of Borodino - it's France vs Russia
When Pierre gazes down on the Borodino battlefield
When the Rostovs leave Moscow
Tolstoy's New Year Resolutions 3 - Make a Difference
Tolstoy distinguished himself from his upper class peers by taking practical action to alleviate other people's suffering, most evident in his famine relief work.
After the crop failure of 1873, Tolstoy stopped writing Anna Karenina for a year to organise aid for the starving, remarking to a relative: "I cannot tear myself away from living creatures to bother about imaginary ones." His friends and family thought it was crazy for one of the world's finest novelists to put one of his works of genius on the backburner. He did it again following the famine in 1891, spending two years working in soup kitchens and fundraising. Can you imagine a bestselling author today setting aside their latest book to do humanitarian relief work for two years?
When everyone looks to the next upheaval ...
After all the war, peace, life, love, death & destruction ...
You need to know something about the book - like why it's so long ...
The book follows the fortunes of three aristocratic families during Napoleon's invasion of Russia. The length of the book is partly explained by the length of time Tolstoy spent planning, writing and polishing it.
The earliest draft storylines found in Tolstoy’s manuscripts date back to 1856. The first part of the novel was serialised in the journal The Russian Herald in 1865, and the first edition of the complete novel published in 1868. During this time, Tolstoy’s wife Sofia was an essential helper. Some acquaintances report that she complained of copying it up to twenty-one times. Sofia preserved every scrap of manuscript of Tolstoy’s work, so that after his death, those relating to War and Peace filled twelve wooden crates.
And why you'll come to love it too
In the words of War and Peace fan David Schneider, 'It remains one of the greatest love stories ever written.
'Or several of the greatest love stories. You know that feeling of following your favourite characters over several seasons of a box set and wanting so desperately for them to find happiness and love? That’s how it feels to read “War And Peace”. It’s Ross and Rachel at the end of “Friends” and I must stop using sitcoms as references.
'Tolstoy’s humanity will inspire you. Witness Nikolai Rostov’s fearsome pursuit of a French soldier and his realisation that his “enemy” is just another human being like him. Take a bite out of any chunk of the novel and the juices of compassion seep out like… Actually, this is not a good simile. Tolstoy would be ashamed. Maybe I should stick to sitcom comparisons.'