FLAT EARTH

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The Independent Online
Hard labour for

Tolstoy's heroes

SO, WHAT happened after Pierre was exiled to Siberia, followed by the faithful Natasha?

What Tolstoy failed to tell us, Vasily Staroi will. Like Alexandra Ripley, who picked up the thread of Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind with Scarlett in 1992, Staroi hopes to satiate the voracious readers of War and Peace with a hefty volume called Pierre and Natasha. Staroi is a pseudonym, which is probably a good idea; writing a sequel to Tolstoy's masterpiece is an act of sheer impudence.

Pierre and Natasha begins in 1825, when a group of noblemen staged a December rebellion. For his role, Pierre Bezukhov is sentenced to 20 years of forced labour in Siberia. Natasha Rostova joins him there, becoming one of the ''Decembrist wives''.

We await the Woody Allen version - Love and Death II, perhaps. Woody probably wouldn't be too hard on the mysterious Staroi. After all, as he said of Napoleon in his 1975 film, ''he's probably someone's grandfather''.

Rebel's rest

ONE person who won't be checking in at the Barclay Hotel in Tartu is Boris Yeltsin. The Estonian hostelry has just opened the Dzhokhar Dudayev Room, named for the leader of the breakaway Chechen republic, a man who has caused Yeltsin no end of trouble. Dudayev is popular in Estonia, remembered fondly for his support for the republic's independence. In his days as a Soviet air force general, he commanded a strategic bomber division from the room now named for him.

Driven wild

BRAZIL'S environmental protection institute, Ibama, has had enough of this monkey business and has gone to court to seek a ban on adverts that show chimpanzees dressed in beach clothes, driving Jeeps and swilling beer.

''Driving a car and drinking beer or soda is not a monkey's natural habitat,'' said Lilian Daher, an Ibama spokeswoman. The TV ads, she said, exploit wild animals and could encourage traffic in endangered species.

Two Brazilian companies copied a US ad created for Pepsi, but didn't get permission to use the chimps. ''They knew we would say 'no','' Ms Daher said.

No, indeed. Why use the animal most closely resembling man when the real thing can usually drive a Jeep and drink beer far better - and sometimes look more fetching in beachwear - than the average hairy ape?

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