Found, more or less: Tolstoy's short version of 'War and Peace'

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With its exhaustive dissection of 19th-century Russian society, Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace is arguably the greatest, and certainly one of the longest, novels ever written.

Now, for those unable to face wading through its 1,500 pages, there is hope. What is being billed as Tolstoy's "original version" is to be published -- some 600 pages lighter, with the removal of Tolstoy's philosophical musings and the prospect of a happy ending. Not everyone, however, is pleased. Academics fear many will be tempted to settle for what they regard as an unfinished version.

The new book was the life's work of Russian scholar Evelina Zaidenshnur, who for 50 years pored over thousands of pages to assemble Tolstoy's first draft, matching different inks, changes in handwriting and types of paper to piece together the author's earliest version.

That work, originally intended for circulation among fellow scholars, is to be published by Fourth Estate in April in an English translation by Andrew Bromfield. War and Peace: The Original Version, weighs in at a relatively svelte 900 pages.

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