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Dec 30, 2011

Leo Tolstoy Life and Works

Tolstoi, Lev Nikolaevich (1828-1910), writer, was born 9 September 1828 at Yasnaya Polyana, his family’s estate, 200 km south of Moscow. He was the fourth of five children born to Count Nikolai Ilyich Tolstoi (died 1837) and Mariya Nikolaevna, née Princess Volkonskaya (died 1830). In 1847 Tolstoi received Yasnaya Polyana in the distribution of his parents’ property. Thereafter, although occasionally absent (especially in the 1850s) for extended periods, he maintained the estate as his home. In 1862 he married Sofiya Andreevna Bers (born 1844), the daughter of a Moscow physician. Thirteen children were born of the marriage, ten of whom survived infancy. Tolstoi left Yasnaya Polyana for the last time in November 1910. He contracted pneumonia on his journey and died of heart failure on 20 November, aged 82, in the stationmaster’s house at Astapovo (today called “Lev Tolstoi”).

Educated and cared for by tutors, Tolstoi’s early childhood was typical for his social class. He showed a gift for languages and a fondness for literature, including fairy tales, the poems of Pushkin, and the Bible, especially the Old Testament story of Joseph. After their father’s death the children passed through the hands of a number of female relatives, finally (1841) being sent to five with an aunt in the provincial city of Kazan. In 1844 Tolstoi enrolled in the local university and began a notably unsuccessful career as a student. He did, however, develop a keen interest in moral philosophy. He steeped himself in the writings of Rousseau. He later listed Dickens, Schiller, Pushkin, Lermontov, D. V. Grigorovich, Turgenev’s A Sportsman’s Sketches, and Laurence Sterne, especially A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, as also having made a “great impression” on him as a young man.

He left the University in 1847 without a degree and settled at Yasnaya Polyana. In 1851 he went to the Caucasus to join his brother Nikolai who was serving there in the army. He became a commissioned officer himself in 1854, serving first on the Danube and later in the Crimea. While in the army he began his literary career. His first published work, Childhood, appeared pseudonymously in The Contemporary (Russ. Sovremennik) in 1852 and was greeted by general acclaim. It was followed by a sequel, Boyhood, and a number of tales of military life. When, in 1856, Tolstoi retired from the army and went

[477] to live in St. Petersburg, his reputation as a writer was already very considerable. He took an active part in literary circles and made the acquaintance of the leading writers and critics of the day. He was much in demand in the fashionable salons of the city. Stories of various types flowed from his pen.

He soon discovered, however, that he got on badly with his fellow writers and disliked his life as a literary celebrity. In 1857 he made his first trip abroad, and by 1859 he had decided to abandon literature in favor of more “useful” pursuits. He returned to Yasnaya Polyana to devote himself to the management of his estate and to the education of the children of his serfs. Thus began Tolstoi’s first pedagogical interlude. He established a school at Yasnaya Polyana, and, in 1860 and 1861, he traveled extensively in order to acquaint himself with European, especially German, educational theory and practice. He resumed teaching on his return, but in 1862 he handed the bulk of the classroom duties over to others. He took upon himself the writing and publication of a periodical describing his theory of education and the pedagogical practice of his school. Twelve issues of Yasnaya Polyana appeared in 1862 and 1863. Tolstoi formulated his ideas most strikingly in “Who Should Learn to Write from Whom, the Peasant Children from Us or We from the Peasant Children?” (“Komu u kogo uchit’sya pisat’, krest’yanskim rebyatam u nas, ill nam u krest’yanskikh rebyat?”).

After his marriage Tolstoi became increasingly preoccupied with estate management, bent on achieving the ideal of the well-regulated life of a prosperous country squire. He published The Cossacks, a novel on which he had been working at intervals for ten years, in order to pay his outstanding gambling debts and enable him to enter into married life with balanced account books. Shortly thereafter he began his first long novel, War and Peace, a work of colossal proportions which occupied him until 1869.

In 1870 Tolstoi once again turned his back on literature and began a second period of preoccupation with pedagogical work. Over the next five years he wrote and compiled materials for a complete course of elementary education. He tested them in his school and revised them. The final versions were published in 1875 as The New Primer (Novaya azbuka) and The Russian Readers (Russkie knigi diya chteniya). Tolstoi’s materials eventually met with fairly general acceptance and were widely used in the nation’s schools.

In 1873 Tolstoi’s thoughts turned once again to literature, and in the course of the next four years he ‘wrote his second long novel, Anna Karenina. His work on the later parts of the novel was disturbed by ever more frequent fits of emotional distress. This condition was brought on by his inability to find an acceptable answer to the question: “What meaning can a person’s life have which would not be annihilated by the awful inevitability of death?” Tolstoi became more and more convinced that the bitter truth was that life is meaningless, that there is no escape from the power of death. By the mid-1870s Tolstoi was occasionally so depressed that he entertained thoughts of suicide. By 1878, however, his “crisis” had culminated in what is customarily referred to as a “conversion” to the ideals of human life and conduct which he found in the teaching of Jesus.

Tolstoi described the period of crisis and conversion in his Confession (Ispoved’, 1882). The censor forbade its publication, a fate shared by many of Tolstoi’s subsequent writings. Tolstoi regarded Confession as his first step along a new road in life, one which he hoped was secure from the lurking menace of the power of death. To Tolstoi the crisis and conversion meant a break with his past, especially his literary past. The convention of dividing his career into two parts (using 1878 as the year of demarcation) has a definite basis in the facts of his life, at least as these were understood by Tolstoi himself. It should not be forgotten, however, that most of the preoccupations, themes, purposes, and style of the “old” Tolstoi are present with greater or lesser clarity already in the work of the “young” Tolstoi.

Confession was, more specifically, the introduction to a group of three books on religion, written in the years 1880 to 1883 and thereafter considered by Tolstoi to be his most important work. The first volume, A Study of Dogmatic Theology (Issledovanie dogmaticheskogo bogosloviya), is a sustained polemic against the teachings of the established church. The second, A Harmony and Translation of the Four Gospels (Soedinenie i perevod chetyrekh evangelii), was Tolstoi’s greatest religious labor. This heavily annotated work of [477] exegesis demonstrates both his thorough acquaintance with the French, German, English, and Russian biblical scholarship of the 19th century and his fluent command of New Testament Greek. Tie last part of the religious trilogy is What I Believe (V chem moya vera), a reasoned statement of Tolstoi’s version of the Christian teaching.

Tolstoi devoted the remainder of his life to the propagation of his religious views in publicistic essays, works of fiction, and in personal contacts with visitors and through correspondence. He dealt with a variety of subjects in his essays. On Life (O zhizni, 1886-87) offers the most extended discussion of that dualism of body (the “animal life of man”) and spirit (the “true life”) which is the philosophical heart of his teaching. What Then Should We Do? (Tak chto zhe nam delat’?, 1886) begins with a gruesomely realistic portrait of the poverty of the Moscow slums, which Tolstoi had observed firsthand while helping conduct the Moscow census of 1882. He advocates the abolition of the use of money in favor of the direct exchange of services and the disestablishment of private property rights. He condemns philanthropy as a symptom of “the willingness of the rich to do everything for the poor except to get off their backs.” The Kingdom of God Is Within You (Tsarstvo Bozhie vnutri vas, 1893) takes up two favorite themes: non-resistance to evil and anarchism. This work was among the several written by Tolstoi which had a profound influence on Mohandas Gandhi. In What Is Art? (Chto takoe iskusstvo?, 1898) Tolstoi gives a detailed account of his aesthetic thought. He also wrote many briefer essays on such subjects as the nature of religion, vegetarianism, famine relief (in which he took an active part in the early 1890s), and on the evils of alcohol and tobacco, patriotism, military conscription, war, terrorism (as practiced both by terrorists and by governments), and capital punishment.

Tolstoi resumed literary activity in the mid-1880s with a series of stories written for the popular audience (i.e., for the common people, especially the peasants). To facilitate the publication and distribution of the “Stories for the People” he and his friend and disciple V. G. Chertkov founded (1884) a non‑profit publishing house which they called The Intermediary (Posrednik). Tolstoi also developed an interest in the drama and wrote his only major play, The Power of Darkness. The leading examples of Tolstoi’s fiction written for the educated audience also reflect his religious teachings. These include the short novels The Death of Ivan llyich, The Kreutzer Sonata, and Master and Man. He also wrote two more novels, Resurrection and Hadji-Murad, and more than a dozen short stories.

The last ten years of Tolstoi’s life were marred by intermittent ill health. He devoted such strength as remained to him chiefly to the compilation of vast compendia of morally and spiritually elevating extracts from the writings of sages of various epochs and cultures. These miscellanies reflect both Tolstoi’s wide reading in the world’s wisdom literature and his lack of temerity in bending or adjusting the words of others to suit his own purposes. The largest of these compilations are The Cycle of Reading (Krug chteniya, 1904-08), For Every Day (Na kazhdyi den’, 1907-10), and The Way of Life (Put’ zhizni, 1910). Although not expressly so described by Tolstoi, the miscellanies represent his version of the “perennial philosophy,” the concept of which had been central to his view of religion from the early 1880s and even before.

Tolstoi was the best-known Russian in the world during the last decade of his life. Tolstoian communities sprang up throughout Europe and in the United States. He was described in the newspapers as “the sage of Yasnaya Polyana” and “the conscience of humanity.” His vast correspondence touched hundreds of people at a distance and many more came to visit him each year. He was a constant irritant to the authorities. His associates suffered exile and other manifestations of the government’s displeasure, and he was himself excommunicated from the Orthodox Church in 1901. Most of the works written after 1880 were either banned outright or mutilated by the censor. His public stature in Russia and abroad, however, was such that his person, even in times of vigorous repression, remained inviolable. At home he was the center of a distasteful competition between his disciples, led by Chertkov, and his family, mainly his wife. Sofiya Andreevna made frequent and covert nocturnal searches of his private papers. It was the experience of lying sleepless in his darkened bedroom listening to his wife rustling through his papers in his study next door that finally prompted him

[479] to leave Yasnaya Polyana for good and embark on the journey which ended in his death.

Tolstoi was a multi-dimensional man. In his long career he had been a teacher and educational theorist, a philosopher and social critic, a successful farmer and paterfamilias, a soldier, and a prophet. Above all, however, he was a great artist, and it is on his fiction that his fame at present rests. The literary career of this “great writer of the Russian land” (as his contemporary Turgenev called him) may be divided into three parts: the early period of literary apprenticeship (1851-63), the period of the great novels (1863-77), and the later period of preoccupation with the message of his religious teaching (1878-1910).

The works of the early period may be regarded as the “school” in which Tolstoi taught himself to write. He isolated the themes and developed the literary techniques which characterize his more mature writings. The spirit of trial and error is reflected in the journal which he began in 1847 and continued to keep, with greater or lesser regularity, throughout the remainder of his life. The journals, especially those of the 1850s, are one of the richest sources for the study of the development of Tolstoi’s literary style, so much so that their reliability as sources of biographical detail has always to be assessed in the light of the fact that they are also (according to some views, primarily) the record of his literary experiments.

Tolstoi’s first substantial literary endeavor, “The History of Yesterday” (“Istoriya vcherashnego dnya”) reflects the psychological self-analysis characteristic of the journals. Written in 1851, it was not submitted for publication, perhaps because its young author feared that its originality would occasion public rejection. The story is an account of the sequence of thoughts and feelings which pass through the mind of the protagonist in the course of a single day. Tolstoi’s fascination with the operation of the psyche found a more conventional outlet in Childhood (Detstvo, 1852), where it is cloaked in the format, familiar to contemporary readers, of childhood reminiscences. Childhood and its sequels, Boyhood (Otrochestvo, 1854) and Youth (Yunost’, 1857), were conceived as parts of a tetralogy to be called The Four Ages of Development (the fourth volume was never written). The spontaneous impressions of the child as child alternate with the analysis of those impressions by the child grown up. The result is a combination of the lyrical representation of the memories of childhood (typical of the genre) and a detached, quasi-scientific investigation of the operations and growth of the conscious mind at various stages of its development.

The Trilogy (as the three novels are collectively called) abounds with autobiographical material, a feature characteristic also of Tolstoi’s later works. Another noteworthy element is the unconcealed presence of the author’s voice (the author as narrator), i strategy which Tolstoi seems to have adopted on the basis of his fascination with the work of Sterne. Boyhood and Youth continue the account of the child-hero’s development through his late teens. In the former he discovers philosophy, and considerable attention is given to the phenomenon of the paralysis of the will when it seeks to be guided by reason alone. The distinction drawn here between the enervation arising from abstract mentation and the more practical philosophy in which the head and the heart cooperate remained thereafter a prominent motif in many of Tolstoi’s works, e.g., the tension between “reason” and “consciousness” in War and Peace. Youth concerns the hero’s education in manners and concentrates on the theme of social comme il faut, a favorite target also in War and Peace (the characters of Berg and Vera) and The Death of Ivan Ilyich.

Tolstoi’s tales of military fife reflect his experiences in the Caucasus and the Crimea. “The Raid” (Nabeg, 1853) and “The Woodfelling” (Rubka lesa, 1855) belong superficially to the familiar Russian genre of the Caucasian military tale. They contain an indirect polemic with the romantic clichés of fearless heroism, the glory of battle, and exaggerated patriotism characteristic of such earlier practitioners of the genre as Aleksandr Bestuzhev (Marlinsky). Tolstoi reduced the conventional exciting plots of such stories to the level of mere incidents which he used as a framework to display his true interest, a neatly categorized series of psychological portraits of the Russian soldiers and officers and their opponents, the mountain tribesmen. The stories blend the traditional Caucasian military tale of the 1820s with the strategies and devices characteristic of the Natural School of the 1840s. Tolstoi’s interest in the latter, be-

[478] spoken by his high opinion of Grigorovich (a leading practitioner of the “Physiological sketch”). is also reflected in “Notes of a Billiard Marker” (Zapiski markera, 1855) with its use of skaz (i.e., the interposition of a narrative persona, usually one with a “local color” value and characterized by dialectal or sub-literary speech, between author and reader), and “The Snowstorm” (Metel’, 1856), a physiological sketch of the Russian coachman.

The three Sevastopol Stories (“Sevastopol’ v dekabre mesyatse,” 1855; “Sevastopol’ v mae,” 1855; “Sevastopol’ v avguste 1855 goda,” 1856) are difficult to classify. They represent a blend of fiction and reportage with a startling admixture (in “Sevastopol in December”) of the stylistic conventions of a tourist guidebook. They also (especially “Sevastopol in May”) make extended use of the narrative device of stream of consciousness (“the dialectic of the soul” as it was called by the critic N. G. Chernyshevsky) with which Tolstoi had first experimented in “The History of Yesterday.” The stories, especially the first of them, display the characteristically Tolstoian device of estrangement whereby familiar sights and events are made to seem new and striking by distorting or ignoring the conventions which usually govern our perception of them. This descriptive technique was to become a hallmark of Tolstoi’s style. The loci classici are the account of Natasha at the opera in War and Peace, the description of the service in the prison church in Resurrection, and the ridiculing of the rehearsal of a Wagnerian opera in What Is Art? Finally, it was in “Sevastopol in May” that Tolstoi proclaimed that the “hero” of his fiction was not any of the characters who appeared in it but rather that which “I love with all the power of my soul” and which “has been, is, and will be beautiful,” namely, The Truth.

The stories of the later 1851)3 illustrate several more of the themes and devices which became characteristic of Tolstoi’s work. He had already touched upon death and various attitudes toward it in the Trilogy and the military tales. He devoted “Three Deaths” (Tri smerti, 1859) exclusively to this subject. The story describes the pain and anxiety attendant on the death of a wealthy noblewoman, the patient and uncomplaining acceptance of his death by a poor coachman, and the death of a tree. Despite his physical suffering, the coachman dies with less anguish than the noblewoman. The death of the tree is the least painful, because the tree is unaware that it is dying.

“Three Deaths” makes its point through comparison and contrast of the experiences of its three protagonists. This device, ubiquitous in Tolstoi’s work, also forms the structural basis of “Two Hussars” (Dva gusara, 1856). He describes incidents from the lives of two Hussar officers, father and son. The comparison is distinctly unflattering to the younger generation, as the “progressive” critics of the time were quick to note and regret. They saw the story as proof of Tolstoi’s disaffection from the liberal cause and of his recalcitrance in the face of their demand for literary works which would reflect modern ideas and ideals. Tolstoi added offense to innuendo with two stories based upon the experiences of his first trip to Europe. “Lucerne” (Iz zapisok knyazya D. Nekhlyudova. Lyutsern, 1857) contains a diatribe against the moral shortcomings of the values of “civilized” Europeans (especially the English) as compared with their rural brethren, and reminds us of Tolstoi’s continuing interest in the ideas of Rousseau. “Albert” (1858) expresses the idea that art is valuable in itself and not merely as a medium for the communication of ideological or social concerns.

Tolstoi worked on The Cossacks (Kazaki, 1863) throughout the entire period of his literary apprenticeship, and it reflects the whole range of themes and stylistic techniques which then preoccupied him. The novel breaks new ground as well. More comprehensively and directly than in any other of his early works, Tolstoi here delves into the theme of the relationship between the individual and the group. The hero’s (Olenin) inability to find a satisfying place for himself, the unattached individual, either in the Moscow society which he leaves at the beginning of the novel or the Cossack village which he leaves at the end is a foretaste of the investigation of the role of the individual in the context of the historical and social collective which Tolstoi will conduct in War and Peace and Anna Karenina.

The foundation of Tolstoi’s reputation is the work of his middle period (1863-77). It was then that he wrote War and Peace and Anna Karenina, both of which are, by common consent, well up on the list of the greatest novels ever written. War and Peace defies facile categorization. It is a sui generic combination of the psychological novel, the Bildungsroman, the family novel, and the historical novel, with a liberal admixture of the scope and tone of the epic. Set amidst the historical conflict between the France of Napoleon and the Russia of Alexander I, it deals primarily with the events of the years 1805 to 1812 and ends with an epilogue set in about 1820. Against a backdrop of alternating periods of peace and war Tolstoi unfolds the stories of the Bolkonsky and Rostov families, and of Pierre Bezukhov.

The novel’s epic qualities are most prominent in the account of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812. All the classes of Russian society (with the exception of some portions of the St. Petersburg elite) unite in the defense of the homeland and in a spirit of national solidarity. On the family level it is the Rostovs who are the primary bearers of the epic spirit: the naturalness and spontaneity of Natasha; the courage and devotion of Nikolai; the scenes, most of which are associated with the Rostovs, of feasting and hunting, singing and dancing.

The novel as Bildungsroman is preoccupied with the moral and psychological growth of Andrei Bolkonsky and Pierre Bezukhov. Andrei passes from dreams of military glory to disillusionment, from dreams of honor in the career of statesman to disillusionment, from dreams of love to a final disillusionment which ends in a death which is, at least in part, a voluntary withdrawal from “vital life.” Pierre’s road is similarly bumpy. He passes, with intermediate periods of despair, from sensuality to Freemasonry and philanthropy to mysticism. At last he seems to find the truth which he has sought in the example of the peasant soldier Platon Karataev. In the “First Epilogue,” however, it is suggested that Pierre has begun to slip away from that truth, too, as from its predecessors. Unlike Andrei, but like the novel itself, he continues along the undulating curve of life, from indeterminate beginnings to an indefinite and unspecifiable end.

The various aspects of War and Peace are united in a variety of ways. Tolstoi interweaves the fates of the fictional characters and connects them to those of the historical personages. The novel as a whole is marked by the vividness, fullness, and plasticity of description which is recognized as the hallmark of the Tolstoian manner. Life itself is, in a way, the unifying hero of this multi-dimensional book and Tolstoi is everywhere fascinated with its various aspects (youth and age, peace and war, mind and spirit, reason and intuition, the individual and the swarm) and its key moments: birth, love, and death. He raises many questions and explores many answers.

In one of its dimensions War and Peace is a historical novel. As a whole, however, it would be better described as a novel about history. Especially in the later parts of the novel proper and in the “Second Epilogue” Tolstoi is preoccupied with the investigation of the forces that move history. His primary target is the “great-man” theory of historical causation, both in direct argument and in his portrayal of Napoleon (the epitome of the great man) as limited ineffectual, and essentially powerless to control the movement of history. The Russian commander Kutuzov, the salutary contrast to the pretentious Napoleon, succeeds precisely because he seeks to accommodate himself to the flow and flux of history rather than trying to manipulate it.

The “Second Epilogue” of War and Peace extends the discussion of historical causation into the realm of the more general philosophic question of freedom and necessity, a topic which was to retain a vital interest for Tolstoi throughout the remainder of his career. In reading Tolstoi, “freedom” and “necessity” can be understood as rubrics which summarize nearly all of his central thematic concerns. Under “freedom” come consciousness, life, the individual; under “necessity” fall reason (i.e., logic without intuition), death, the group. War and Peace explores the role of the individual within the group conceived of as the historical mass. Here is another unifying factor in the novel, for Tolstoi presents not only the involvement of the historical characters in the great events of history but that of the fictional characters as well. They all face situations which exemplify the tension between the immediacy of the individual’s sense of freedom as individual and the feelings of powerlessness and constraint within the group. The intuitive freedom perceived by consciousness does battle with the indubitable ne-

[479] cessity proven by reason, and from this war not one of the leading characters is allowed, in fife, an unbroken peace. The same questions, cloaked in a different setting and explored in the context of another dimension of the “group,” emerge again in Tolstoi’s second great novel.

Anna Karenina is an account of two marriages. The story of the ruin of Anna’s in her adulterous affair with Count Aleksei Vronsky alternates with the story of the courtship and family life of Konstantin Levin and Kitty Shcherbatskaya. The two main characters, Anna and Levin, are brought together on only one occasion, however, so that while it is easy to see the contrast between these two characters and their respective fates, it is more difficult to understand the sense in which they are also comparable to one another.

At the beginning of the novel Anna is a highly respected member of society. She enters into a love affair and finds herself unable to conduct it discreetly. She abhors hypocrisy and deceit. She cannot be content with the stolen moments of passion in which so many of the women and men of her acquaintance indulge. Anna is caught between the power of the passionate “aliveness” within her and the equally pressing demands of the society to which she belongs. She finds herself in the position of serving two masters: her individuality, with its striving for freedom and self‑expression through love, and her social self, with its need to belong to an authentic group context. As she herself says, she is, in her affair, “guilty, and yet not to blame.” Anna commits suicide when she becomes convinced that Vronsky, the only remnant of social context remaining to her, wishes to leave her.

Levin’s course is the reverse of Anna’s. He begins as an acknowledged “outsider,” an independent individualist, and gradually becomes ever more enmeshed in the web of social and familial constraints. Like Anna, he senses the tension between the force of his individual ideals and the obstructions of recalcitrant social reality. Unlike her, he finds a middle course which allows him to function with the social group while yet retaining a part of himself, what he calls on the last page of the novel his soul’s “holy of holies,” under his absolute control. In this hidden part of himself he is neither constrained nor obstructed by his continuing attachment to the group. His life, in this respect at least, is “full of the meaning with which I have the power to invest it.”

In this respect the stories of Anna and Levin are truly comparable. Both experience the frustration of having their expression of themselves as individuals thwarted by an unmanageable social reality. As in War and Peace Tolstoi had shown the powerlessness of individuals to force historical reality to conform to their own ambitions and plans, so here he explores their inability to realize the ideals of the free imagination in the context of society and the family. Although the group is of a different order of magnitude, the question is the same: wherein is a person free, wherein subject to the constraints of necessity. The hopeful implication of War and Peace that people are at least relatively free in the context of their personal and familial affairs is replaced in Anna Karenina by the suggestion that they are really free only within themselves, in that “holy of holies” which they alone may enter.

Tolstoi devoted rest of the first seven years of his later period (1878-1910) to non-fictional writing. When, in 1885, he returned once again to literature, he was determined to forswear the “nonsense” of his former style and to make all his fictional works conveyances for the message of the Christian teaching as he understood it. He distinguished between the educated and the popular audiences, and his first literary efforts were intended for the latter.

Tolstoi’s primary problem in writing “for the people” was to devise a style that was both accessible to them and commensurate with his artistic standards. He employed narrative models and subjects familiar from fairy tales, religious legends, and proverbs. He trimmed his customarily complex literary style to the bare bones, much as be had in the stories, especially “God Sees the Truth, But Waits” (Bog pravdu vidit, da ne skoro skazhet, 1872), written for The Russian Readers. To this simplified base he added, through appropriate lexical and syntactic selection, either a folkish or Biblical flavor. He consulted a well-known teller of folktales and was in the habit of eavesdropping on the conversations of simple folk in search of choice words and phrases. The stylistic innovation produced by these efforts is the chief glory of the collection of moral exempla which Tolstoi called his Stories for the People. They represent a,

genre unto themselves within Tolstoi’s work and include such gems as “What Men Live By” (Chem lyudi zhivy, 1882), “Where Love Is, God Is” (Gde lyubov’, tam i Bog, 1885), “Two Old Men” (Dva starika, 1885), “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” (Mnogo li cheloveku zemli nuzhno?, 1885), and “The Three Hermits” (Tri startsa, 1886).

Tolstoi’s concern to bring the message of his teaching to the popular audience also led him into dramatic work. There were efforts afoot in the mid‑1880s to develop a repertory of plays suitable for production in “popular” theaters. Tolstoi, who had experimented briefly with and then abandoned the drama in the 1860s, was invited to contribute. In response he wrote The Power of Darkness (Vlast’ t’my, 1886). This peasant tragedy, its five acts neatly apportioned to rising action, climax, and denouement, is constructed very much in the classical manner. As it happened, it was not produced for the popular audience, but it had a notable theatrical success in the 1890s under the direction of K. S. Stanislavsky. It has since remained a fixture of the Russian repertory. Tolstoi’s several later plays do not reach the level of The Power of Darkness. The best known is The Fruits of Enlightenment (Plody prosveshcheniya, 1889-90), a comedy in which Tolstoi ridicules the spiritualism which was fashionable in the 1880s.

The major literary achievements of Tolstoi’s later period are to be found among the works which he wrote for the educated audience. Like the Stories for the People, these works are nearly all invested with the teaching; unlike them, they are written in a style which is much more typically Tolstoian. Tolstoi seems to have felt that his peers were in need of instruction mainly with respect to the themes of death and sex, subjects which appear rarely and never, respectively, in the Stories for the People. The theme of death evoked the short novels The Death of Ivan Ilyich (Smert’ Ivana II’icha, 1886) and Master and Man (Khozyain i rabotnik, 1895). Both portray the encounter between a solid, respectable citizen and his death, an encounter which reveals that the very solidity and respectability of the lives of the protagonists was what was most wrong with them. Both works are painstakingly structured, densely allusive, and profoundly symbolic. It is here that Tolstoi best succeeded in converting the raw material of his religious teaching into genuine works of art. The stories on the theme of sex are less well realized from the artistic point of view. The Kreutzer Sonata (Kreitserova sonata, 1889) aroused a storm of controversy. Tolstoi was accused of advocating a celibacy so complete that it would, if practiced, result in the extinction of the human race. The pernicious results of sexual attraction are also the focus of The Devil (D’yavol, 1890 unfinished) and Father Sergius (Otets Sergii, 1898).

Tolstoi’s last long novel, Resurrection (Voskresenie, 1899) occupied him intermittently for eleven years. He published it to raise money for the transportation of the Dukhobors, a Christian sect with whose style of life he sympathized, to Canada. It is generally conceded that Resurrection does not compare well with its predecessors, and Tolstoi himself felt that the novel was published before it had reached a fully satisfactory state of readiness. In Resurrection Tolstoi attempts to provide a comprehensive account of the ills of contemporary society as seen from the vantage point of his religious teaching. The church, the government, the institution of private property, the judicial and penal system, the conventions of upper-class social life: all are mercilessly attacked and ridiculed. Tolstoi uses his considerable gifts as a satirist with telling effect. Resurrection is also Tolstoi’s final fictional word on the perplexing question of freedom and necessity. He had left Levin (in Anna Karenina) in a state marked by the coexistence of an external, physiological obeisance to the laws of determinism and a spiritual, but wholly internalized, sense of freedom and individual worth. The hero of Resurrection, Prince Dmitry Nekhlyudov, strives to resolve this contradiction by externalizing the dictates of his spiritual consciousness. He abandons his position in society, turns his property over to his peasants, and follows the heroine (for whose ruin he feels responsible) into her Siberian exile. For the later Tolstoi the mere recognition of the spiritual essence of man is no longer enough, even when (as in The Death of Ivan Ilyich) the recognition is total and entails the complete rejection of a life lived with the spirit submerged. Levin’s compromise is replaced by Nekhlyudov’s decision to act so as to remove from his life every vestige of dissonance with the commands of the spirit. Freedom seems at last to win its long struggle with

[480] necessity in the work of Tolstoi. The freedom exemplified in Resurrection is the freedom to act in accord with the requirements of the spirit, to control the fears and desires which were, for the later Tolstoi, the necessary adjuncts of the “animal life” of man, and to reject as irrelevant the physical death which was its determined end.

With his last remarkable work of fiction, Hadji-Murad (Khadzhi-Murad, 1904), Tolstoi’s literary career seems to come full circle. This novel’s Caucasian setting and descriptions of armed conflict and the warrior’s life mark a recurrence of themes which had engaged Tol­stoi’s interest at the beginning of his career. He himself referred to Hadji-Murad as a return to his former manner of writing. Indeed, its stylistic artifice and the relative absence of the later Tolstoi’s cus­tomary moral certitude are hardly in full accord with the principles expressed in What Is Art?. It was perhaps for this reason that Hadji­Murad was held back by Tolstoi and published only after his death.

Works: The definitive edition in Russian: Polnoe sobranie sochinenii. 90 vols. Ed. V. Chertkov et al. 1928-58.

Translations: Most of Tolstoi’s published works have been translated into English, many of them more than once. A good collection is: Oxford Centenary Edition of Tolstoy. 21 vols. Ed. and trans. L. and A. Maude. 1929-37. (The Maudes were friends of Tolstoi and had the benefit of frequent consultation with him. As a general rule, their translations are the most satisfactory of those available.)


R. F. Christian, ed. and trans., Tolstoy’s Letters. 2 vols. 1978.


N. N. Gusev, Letopis’ zhizni i tvorchestva L’va Nikolaevicha Tolstogo. 2 vols. 1958, 1960. [A chronology of the doc­umented facts. For more extensive details see the same author's series:] Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoi: Materialy k biografii. 5 vols. to date [the latest by L. D. Opul'skaya]. 1954, 1957, 1963, 1970, 1979. The standard biographies in English are: A. Maude, The Life of Tolstoy. 2 vols. 1930. E. J. Simmons, Leo Tolstoy. 1946. Also of interest: A. Tolstoy, Tolstoy: A Life of My Father. 1953.

Bibliography of critical studies:

Russian sources (Soviet period only):

N. G. Shelyapina et al., Bibliografiya literatury o L. N. Tolstom. 3 vols. (Coverage through 1967.] 1960, 1965, 1972.

For criticism in English:

D. R. and M. A. Egan, An Annotated Bibliography of English-language Sources to 1978. 1979.

Secondary literature:

J. Bayley, Tolstoy and the Novel. 1966. I.

Berlin, The Hedgehog and the Fox [concerns War and Peace]. 1953.

S. P. Bychkov, ed., L. N. Tolstoi v russkoi kritike. 1960.

R. F. Christian, Tolstoy: A Critical Introduction. 1969. , Tolstoy’s

War and Peace: A Study. 1962.

B. M. Eikhenbaum, Molodoi Tolstoi. 1922. [English translation: The Young Tolstoi (Ann Arbor, 1972)]; Lev Tolstoi. 3 vols. 1928, 1931, 1960 [English translation of the second and third volumes: Tolstoi in the Sixties and Tolstoi in the Seventies (Ann Arbor, 1982)].

G. Gibian, Tolstoj and Shakespeare. 1957.

H. Gifford, ed., Leo Tolstoy [anthology of criticism]. 1971.

N. K. Gudzii, Lev Tolstoi. 1960.

E. N. Kupreyanova, Estetika L. N. Tolstogo. 1966.

K. Leont’ev, Analiz, stil’ i veyanie: O romanakh gr. L. N. Tolstogo. 1911.

K. N. Lomunov, Dramaturgiya L. N. Tolstogo. 1956.

R. Matlaw, ed., Tolstoy: A Collection of Critical Essays. 1967.

D. Matual, Tolstoy’s Translation of the Gospels: A Study. 1985.

L. M. Myshkovskaya, Masterstvo L. N. Tolstogo. 1958.

V. Shklovskii, Material i stil’ v romane L. N. Tolstogo Voina i

mir. 1928.

G. W. Spence, Tolstoy the Ascetic. 1967.

E. Stenbock­Fermor, The Architecture of Anna Karenina. 1975.

E. Wasiolek, Tolstoy’s Major Fiction. 1978.

G. R. J.

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