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LITERARY/ HISTORICAL INFORMATION
Leo Tolstoy evolved the concept of writing War and Peace in 1860, though he started writing it in 1863 and finished it only in 1869. At first, he had desired to write a novel based on the story of a revolutionary. He planned to open the novel with the return of the Decembrist, Pyotor Bezukhov and his wife, Natasha from their exile to Moscow. However, he altered the scheme of the novel due to change in circumstances.
Though a war novel, the book is autobiographical to a large extent. Tolstoy had participated in the Crimean war and hence, he had witnessed the battle scene and the suffering caused by it. This experience he transferred it into his novel and made it realistic. The theme of marital harmony and bliss is also based on his early-married life in Yasnaya Polyana. Tolstoy had started writing the novel soon after his marriage. That happy stage of his life he translates it into the novel. Many of the characters in the novel are lifted out his life. Tolstoy was an aristocrat like Prince Andrei but later, under went a change of heart. He also reflects his personality in the character of Pierre. Nikolai Rostov was shaped out his fatherís presence. Tushin resembled Tolstoyís brother, Nikolai, though the former was not an aristocrat. The charming Sonya was a caricature of his dear aunt and Natasha resembled both his wife and sister-in-law.
Tolstoy refrained from calling War and Peace either as a novel or an autobiography. In fact, he hated to categorize it. In Some Words about War and Peace, he expresses his ideas thus: "What is War and Peace? It is not a novel, even less is it a poem, and still less a historical chronicle. Such an announcement of disregard for conventional form in art might seem presumptuous were it premeditated, and were there not precedents for it. But the history of Russian literature since the time of Pushkin not merely affords many examples of such deviation from European forms, but does not offer a single example of the contrary." However, four years after the completion of the novel, Tolstoy mentions it as his first novel. Whatever the book be, it is a masterpiece that mirrors the early nineteenth century Russian society and its reaction to the invasion of Russia by Napoleon.