I'm inclined to cut the guy some slack here. W&P does, let's admit it, have one of the most off-putting openers of any major novel. I mean, how much can you do with:
Well, prince, Genoa and Lucca are now no more than possessions, estates of the Bounaparte family.So the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation. No, wait: that's the footnote version. The real text is:
"Eh bien, mon prince, Gênes et Lucques ne sont plus que des apanages, des estates, de la famille Buonaparte.Got it? Even though this is a translation, P/V want to make it clear to their readers that Tolstoi's Russian aristos all speak in the tongue of cheese-eating surrender monkeys. Perhaps a more suitably Republican choice would have been
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife...thereby uniting hostility to the estate tax and support for the Defense of Marriage Act together in a single sentence. Or, seeing as how his main goal is to keep his job, he might have settled for:
Call me, Ishmael. But just as long as you call me for dinner.
Michael? It's Ishmael on line two.