Those honors college students who might have heard Russian literature wafting from the Lounge in the wee hours of Satuday morning, well, it couldn’t be helped. The readers in the “24 hours of Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace'” event were on a mission. To read ‘War and Peace’ in its entirety, within 24 hours.
The Campus Weekly editor stopped by the North Spencer lounge at 9:15 a.m. Saturday to see if the group was still plugging ahead. Yes, Steven Bixby, a student, was reading, surrounded by a semicircle of other students. There were only about 45 pages yet to go, in the very thick paperback edition. As he finished the paragraph, he handed the book to me, and invited me to read, which I did, before passing it next to faculty leader Dr. Kathleen MacFie (German, Russian & Japanese Studies).
One student – No. 37 on the list of readers – had drifted to sleep in a chair. One had a blanket, sitting on the couch. Others were gathered round, and they were going to make it – the entire “War and Peace,” in one reading. They did it to mark the centennial of Tolstoy’s death.
“We’re in the second epilogue,” MacFie whispered to me as yet another student took over the reading. “Forty pages to the end.”
The reading had begun at 1 p.m. the afternoon before, at the Minerva Statue.
The first reader was a 1956 graduate, Ellen Lewis, decked out in 19th century period clothing (see visual) A knitted covering graced her hair, as she read from the first chapter. Dr. Kathleen MacFie looked on, also wearing period clothing, as did about 10 students in Russian Studies T-shirts. I asked about the first reader. MacFie happily replied, “That’s my mother.”
And when did it all end? Just after noon on Saturday. One imagines all the participants taking a long, long afternoon nap.
MacFie said they had a blast. “It is the kind of thing that students remember forever.”