Who's Afraid of War and Peace? Making history's most intimidating novel come alive for today's readers

Andrew Kaufman
Andrew Kaufman

War and Peace, widely regarded by many critics as the greatest novel ever written, is also widely regarded as one of the most intimidating books in history. At roughly 1,500 pages, it’s easy to see why.

But the book is a fundamental story about people trying to create meaningful lives in a country ravaged by war, social change, political upheaval and spiritual confusion. The book mirrors issues faced in modern times. 

In an American Conversations Series keynote presentation, hosted by the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies, international Tolstoy expert Andrew Kaufman will take his audience through the mammoth work and dissect what it means to live through troubled times and survive them. Kaufman, who spearheaded a program that taught juvenile offenders about Russian literature and a professor at the University of Virginia, will cover topics from courage to romance and success to idealism. 

Andrew Kaufman: Give War and Peace A Chance

Presented by the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies

March 12, at 7 p.m.

Loosemore Auditorium

Grand Valley’s Pew Grand Rapids Campus

401 W. Fulton Street

Free and open to the public, but RSVPs are requested here

Kaufman’s presentation and expertise have been showcased by Katie Couric, and will be enjoyable to people who have never read a word of Tolstoy’s work. He focuses on making the critically acclaimed novel approachable, relevant and fun.

“With personality and flavor, Kaufman shows how Tolstoy’s War and Peace provides wisdom and insight for times of social unrest and political upheaval, especially our own,” said Hauenstein Center program manager Joe Hogan. “In short, he brings Tolstoy to life.”

Kaufman’s book, “Give War and Peace A Chance,” was released in paperback, February 10. 

About the speaker:

An award-winning teacher of Russian language, literature and culture, Andrew Kaufman has a doctorate in Slavic languages and literatures from Stanford University and has spent the last 20 years bringing alive the Russian classics to Americans young and old. Kaufman, whose titles include “Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times” (Simon & Schuster, May 2014), “Understanding Tolstoy” and “Russian for Dummies” (coauthor), is a featured Tolstoy expert on Oprah.com, and he is frequently invited to discuss Russian literature and culture on national and international television and radio programs. 

An internationally recognized Tolstoy scholar, Kaufman has lectured at the National Endowment for the Arts, the Aspen Institute, the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Leo Tolstoy Museum and Estate at Yasnaya Polyana, and at colleges and universities across the U.S. Currently he teaches at the University of Virginia, where he created and teaches a community-based literature course, “Books Behind Bars: Life, Literature, and Leadership,” in which students lead discussions about Russian literature with incarcerated youth at a juvenile correctional center in Virginia.


For more information, visit hauensteincenter.org.