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Is your New Year resolution finally to read War & Peace?

Radio 4 to tweet along to the epic novel

By Rhian Roberts
Posted 11 December 2014, 7.35am est
BBC
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I’m sitting at my desk looking at my copy of Tolstoy’s epic.

It’s a doorstop of a book, actually it’s a small door of a book; fat with historical footnotes and paragraphs of translation. People who know this sort of thing say it’s the best book ever written; 42 castaways on Desert Island Discs named it as their one book.

Once I’d decided to finally take the challenge it still took me three visits to the bookshop. I was apprehensive. I circled it several times before taking a deep breath and getting my money out, and I’m a voracious reader.

The world is divided into people who feel they really ought to have read it, those who smugly have and Andrew Marr - who apparently reads it once a year.

So Radio 4 devoting the New Year’s Day schedule to a 10 hour dramatisation of War and Peace (with John Hurt, pictured) is a gift to human kind. You don’t actually have to read it, you can experience it via the magic of radio and if you’re unwilling to spend ten hours on January 1st with only a radio for company it’s being repeated on the following 10 Saturdays in hourly segments. Then there’s always the download. We have ways of making you listen.

For many it will still feel like a bit of a stretch. ‘Tolstoy? Really? That’s so the century before last…’. So the challenge for the Radio 4 digital team was how do we make it this century? How do we allow people to experience the book in a way that suits them?

So we decided to tweet it. For 10 hours. You don’t have to read the book at all, just live it through Twitter. The Radio 4 feed will be devoted to War and Peace on January 1st. We’ve got together with some of the best writers on twitter in the shape of David Schneider and his company, That Lot. We’re aiming for a playful companion to the book; with enough plot to make sense of what’s happening and enough commentary to keep you entertained. We’ll throw in some lovely family trees, maps and battle plans so no one gets lost along the way.

Don’t worry if you know you won’t surface until halfway through the day you’ll be able to catch up quickly with the story so far via the Radio 4 website where we’ll pull together all our social media activity as the day progresses. We couldn’t have made it any easier for you.

It might be the first New Year resolution you’ve ever kept.

More information

Rhian Roberts — Rhian is the Digital Editor of BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 4 Extra.
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