Anyone who has taken on the challenge of reading War and Peace will know that it’s quite the literary endeavour, and it is with admiration and amazement that we heard about a marathon four-day public reading of Tolstoy’s classic across Russia that has been happening this week.
Led and coordinated by Tolstoy’s great-great-granddaughter Fekla Tolstaya, the reading began on Tuesday morning and by its conclusion at the end of today will have involved over 1,300 people in more than 30 cities across the country, and will have reached even more both nationally and worldwide as the readings are being streamed by the Russian state television channel Kultura and online.
The collection of readings were characterised by their democratic nature, with more than 6,000 people applying to be part in the 60 hour collective. Everyone from schoolchildren and professors to politicians and library-goers have been involved, reading a two-to-three minute excerpt from the novel each. With more than half a million words to cover, that’s a lot of readers on board!
“For me it shows how we are all equal when we speak about literature, when we speak about books – everyone can find something for themselves in this book,” says Fekla. “People argue with each other when they speak about politics, [but] culture, our cultural heritage, great Russian literature – this is the place where we all unite.”
The marathon reading is out of this world – and we can say that quite literally, as cosmonaut Sergei Volkov is taking part reading his extract from the International Space Station.
Public reading of great pieces of literature have seen a revival recently, in the UK as well as abroad. This summer, the Almeida Theatre and British Museum brought over sixty actors and artists together to read The Iliad to audiences that totalled 50,000 across the world, following it up with a similar reading of The Odyssey last month. Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick was also performed in its entirety by writers, actors, comedians and members of the public at the Southbank Centre – and similarly to the reading of War and Peace, involved Herman Melville’s great-great-granddaughter. With this year’s Penny Readings taking place this weekend – with Maxine Peake and Shaun Evans appearing as star readers – as well as our Shared Reading groups happening across the country each week, it’s great to know that we’re in such good company.
Perhaps 2016 will see yet more marathon reading attempts? We’ve read quite a few lengthy novels in our Shared Reading groups including Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens and Tolstoy’s other epic, Anna Karenina – could one of them be next? If anyone involved in the War and Peace reading over in Russia wants to get in touch with us, please do – and together we’ll lead a global read aloud fashion!