By Rosamund Bartlett
In November 1910, count number Lev Tolstoy died at a distant Russian railway station. on the time of his dying, he was once the main recognized guy in Russia, with a turning out to be overseas following, and extra respected than the tsar. Born into an aristocratic family members, Tolstoy had spent his existence rebelling opposed to not just traditional principles approximately literature and paintings but additionally conventional schooling, kin existence, prepared faith, and the state.
In this, the 1st biography of Tolstoy in additional than two decades, Rosamund Bartlett attracts generally on key Russian resources, together with a lot interesting fabric made to be had because the cave in of the Soviet Union. She sheds gentle on Tolstoy’s impressive trip from callow adolescence to author to prophet; discusses his stricken courting along with his spouse, Sonya; and vividly inspires the Russian landscapes Tolstoy so enjoyed and the turbulent instances during which he lived. chiefly, Bartett supplies us an eloquent portrait of the bright, maddening, and opposite guy who has once more been chanced on through a brand new iteration of readers.
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Extra info for Tolstoy: A Russian Life
11 There is not a scrap of evidence to suggest this putative German immigrant who founded the Tolstoy dynasty ever existed, nor indeed was it ever accepted practice to translate foreign surnames into Russian in old Muscovy. The Tolstoy family’s belief in its German provenance certainly ran deep, however. In the 1840s, ‘Der Dicke’ was what Nicholas I reputedly called General Count Pyotr Alexandrovich Tolstoy, a distant relative of Lev Nikolayevich who served as ambassador to Paris in the crucial years before the Napoleonic invasion.
The greatest task facing the biographer of Tolstoy is the challenge of making sense of a man who was truly larger than life. It was a task he himself took on the moment he started writing a diary in his late adolescence, and one he never abandoned, particularly in his last years. Tolstoy never stopped trying to make sense of himself in his writing, whether it was through the public medium of his fictional characters or the quasi-private one of his diary entries. Indeed, as the scholar Irina Paperno has suggested, he even seems to have wanted to extend the extraordinary feat he achieved in his fiction of articulating latent as well as overt psychological processes by ‘turning himself into a book’ in his diaries.
First of all he built a ha-ha running round its perimeter, then some iron gates at the front entrance positioned between two large round white towers. 33 These were hollow so that the watchman could seek shelter during inclement weather. Then, as now, the gates opened on to an avenue lined with birch trees leading up to the manor house, which was wide enough for a troika or a coach and four. This was the famous ‘Preshpekt’, and a similar driveway is mentioned in War and Peace in the description of the Bolkonsky estate Bald Hills, which bears many similarities to Yasnaya Polyana.
Tolstoy: A Russian Life by Rosamund Bartlett