Sunday, November 19, 2006

Seymour Hersh's Latest Expose: It Was Not Tolstoy Who Wrote War & Peace!

This is the biggest jolt to the literary world in decades.

The first draft of War and Peace - a classic described as not merely a novel, even less as prose, and still less as an historical chronicle - was not written by Leo Tolstoy but by Jane Austen!

The sensational claim, hitting the Upper West Side Manhattan literary salons like a tsunami, has been made in an investigative article to be published early next year in The New Yorker. The reporter, Mr. Seymour Hersh, is a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist best known for his exposes on Vietnam's My Lai massacre and Iraq's Abu Gharib prison scandal.

Jane Austen's Winter in Moscow

In the story, its claims cross-checked by the famed fact-checking department of the New Yorker, Mr. Hersh has argued that the first draft of the classic was actually written in English by Jane Austen which was later translated and worked upon by Leo Tolstoy. According to the report, the English author had made an incognito trip to the smoldering ruins of Moscow in 1812, following Napoleon's invasion. The lady was in her quest of possible ideas for a future novel, a work which she wanted to be radically different from her earlier books.

This trip was undertaken by Jane Austen one year after the publication of her novel Sense and Sensibility. Her most celebrated work — Pride and Prejudice — would only be published next year. The author was said to be in a wintry state of mind due to the rejection of a marriage proposal. Her compsoure was further saddened on witnessing the post-war desolation of the Russian city. It is believed that she completed the entire first draft in this gloomy mood before departing back to England.

It is still not clear just how the draft landed in Tolstoy's family estate at Yasnaya Polyana, south of Moscow, few years later. The Russian novelist was born 11 years after Jane Austen's death. Despite several calls, New Yorker was unavailable for queries.

However, according to sources working in the magazine, the story carefully details how Tolstoy translated Austen's draft into Russian and also filled in several war scenes which were not originally intended .

How Did Hersh Do It?

Reportedly, Mr. Hersh had gained access to dozens of letters that Jane Austen received from sister Cassandra while residing in Moscow. These letters are carefully stored in a high security iron bunker in the KGB headquarters in Lubyanka Square.

The unearthing of the hoax, certain to trigger a series of disbelief — outrage and dismay in Russia, while generating delight, pride, and swagger in England — was written by Mr. Hersh after journeying to countless cottages and dachas scattered in both countries. He is said to have interviewed more than 375 people during his impeccable research.

A Tolstoyan Deception

Until now everyone believed that War and Peace, considered to be the greatest Russian masterpiece, was an original idea of Leo Tolstoy. It was a myth whose lie was diligently shielded and kept secret by an extremely unlikely gang of players – Tsarist courtiers, Communist politburo members, and the present cabal of corrupt Putin-style Kremlin democrats.

But now literature’s biggest fraud is all set to be exposed.

Strangely, the New Yorker editorial team continue to be evasive about the exact date of its publication. It is interesting to note here that the magazine editor, Mr. David Remnick, is a Russian by origin. A last-moment rejection of the revelations cannot be ruled out. After all, what's at stake is Mother Russia's reputation.
Written by Mayank Austen Soofi
Published November 19, 2006