Check out some of my favorite War and Peace quotes and my analysis of them. I love this book, so it is with great pleasure that I share them with you. I also recommend you read this book. It is one of the greatest books ever written, if not the greatest. You will enjoy it, and you will learn a lot about people and their behavior. You will also learn some fascinating history facts. You will also become better at understanding people. But if you are too lazy to read it, read the best quotes below.
NOTE: I read this book in Russian, so I can point out some of the things that were mistranslated into English. And believe me, many of the things were mistranslated. Also, pay no attention to the order in which these War and Peace quotes are listed. All of them are equally awesome.
1 Pierre was right when he said that one must believe in the possibility of happiness in order to be happy, and I now believe in it. Let the dead bury the dead, but while I’m alive, I must live and be happy.
Lots of great writers spoke about the importance of positive thinking. Leo Tolstoy was one of them. But what differentiated him is the simplicity with which he described it. Even in this quote, we can see that happiness is simply a decision that we make, and the only reason we are not choosing it on a daily basis is because of things we were taught to believe.
2 Because of the self-confidence with which he had spoken, no one could tell whether what he said was very clever or very stupid.
This is one of the best quotes from that great book. It is both witty and meaningful. It hints at the fact that people tend to associate confidence with leadership, therefore many fools rise to the position of leadership. Mark Twain has a similar quote about that: “All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.” Indeed, confidence is what most people admire because very few have it.
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3 He had the unfortunate ability of discerning the evil and falsehood of life too clearly to be able to take any serious part in life. Every sphere of activity was, in his eyes, linked with evil and deception.
NOTE: this quote was terribly written in its original English translation, so I translated it in my own way. Believe me, you are better off reading my translation. If you read the original one, you would think Leo Tolstoy did not know English. He did. He knew English better than his translator even though he was Russian and his translator was English.
Though not an upbeat quote, it does create a brilliant portrayal of people who never engage in anything because they see something negative in everything. Don’t be one of them.
4 Every action of theirs, that seems to them an act of their own freewill, is in the historical sense not free at all but is bound up with the whole course of history and preordained from all eternity.
This quote reflects Tolstoy’s belief that the so-called “great people” like Napoleon Bonaparte are nothing more than representations of people’s will and historical trends. From this, we can conclude that he believed that each “great person” was simply an actor playing out a course of events that people of his country wanted him to play.
5 It’s not given to people to judge what’s right or wrong. People have eternally been mistaken and will be mistaken, and in nothing more than in what they consider right and wrong.
Here Tolstoy expresses his opinion that mankind can never know whether it is on the right track or not. He also expresses his opinion that people are usually mistaken when they stubbornly persist in claiming that they are right and all others are wrong. By saying so, he seems to point at the fallible nature of man and his desire to be right at any cost.
6 The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.
This is undoubtedly true. Some of the greatest men who ever lived achieved their greatness through persistence. Take Thomas Edison for example. When a reporter asked him, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” He replied: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10000 ways that won’t work.”
7 We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.
This is Tolstoy’s interpretation of Socrates‘ quote “the only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Indeed, how big is what he know in comparison with what we don’t know?
8 War is not a polite recreation but the vilest thing in life, and we ought to understand that and not play at war.
Tolstoy participated in a major war as a soldier. So he knew the horrors associated with it. Though the war he wrote about in War and Peace is not the one in which he participated, it is clear that his war experiences gave him an understanding that informed his writing of War and Peace. And this understanding turned him into pacifist. Let’s hope more people become pacifists. Then the world will be a safer place and more of taxpayers’ money will be spent on worthy causes.
9 It’s all God’s will: you can die in your sleep, and God can spare you in battle.
This quote reflects Leo Tolstoy’s religious beliefs. Regardless of whether you believe in God or not, I think you will agree that it is pithy. It points out the absurdity of life and explains it from his point of view. This is why Tolstoy’s writings are so great: there seems to be an uncanny understanding of how the world works.
10 A man on a thousand mile walk has to forget his goal and say to himself every morning: ‘Today I’m going to cover twenty-five miles and then rest up and sleep.’
This quote is simple. It simply points out the fact that the best way to live life is to take one day at a time. So let’s take life one day at a time.
NOTE: There are many other great quotes in that wonderful book. These 10 War and Peace quotes are only a fraction of them. So read the book.
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