A Piece of Monologue brings my attention to two things: the fact that it is the centenary of Leo Tolstoy's death this year and, also, to a number of articles over at the Guardian related to all things Tolstoyan...

I've read precious little Tolstoy, and nor have I read Isaiah Berlin's famous essay on the lad, The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy's View of History. That essay keeps being quoted at me, however, so I think I'll use the fact that I'm likely to be snowed in this evening to see what all the fuss is about.

Readers Comments

  1. Thursday 07 January 2010

    Tolstoy is overrated. There, I said it.

  2. Tolstoy is not overrated. There I've said it. At least good Tolstoy. Didn't admittedly enjoy "Anna K" so much but "War & Peace" is superb. Tolstoy's short story 'Master & Man' is ceratinly one of the greatest things in literature- if I was to recommend anything by him it would be that. His 'Sevastopol Sketches' should also be read by all; the passage below from 'Sevastopol in May', though of course the effect much weakened by standing outside of the literary whole:

    "He could feel something wet in the region of his chest- this wet sensation made him think of water, and he could have drunk whatever his chest was wet with. "I must be bleeding from the fall," he thought and, becoming more and more flustered with the fear that the soldiers who were continuing to flicker past were about to trample him, he mustered all his strength and tried to shout: "Take me with you!" Instead, however, he began to groan so horribly that he grew frightened at the sound he was making. Then red lights began to dance in front of his eyes and he had the impression that the soldiers were piling stones on top of him. The lights grew more and more sparse, and the stones being placed on top of him seemed to weigh more heavily on him. He made an effort to heave them aside, straightened himself up, and then neither saw nor heard nor thought nor felt anything more. He had been killed on the spot by a shell splinter that had struck him in the middle of the chest."

  3. People who say that Tolstoy is one of the greatest geniuses in literature underrate him. He was also a saint. Both War and Peace and Anna K are unavoidably essential reading. What Then Must We Do I really enjoyed. Everything else he wrote I've only not read because I haven't got round to it yet. There's Tolstoy, then there's everyone else. There, I said it.

  4. Andrew, that's an astonishing passage. I must read it all!

    While we're at it, let me place my vote for 'The Cossacks' which I remember fondly as a sort of dreamscape - my first Tolstoy.

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