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4.28  ·  Rating Details ·  436 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
Leo Tolstoy embodies the most extraordinary contradictions. He was a wealthy aristocrat who preached the virtues of poverty and the peasant life, a misogynist who wrote Anna Karenina, and a supreme writer who declared, "Literature is rubbish." From Tolstoy's famously bad marriage to his enormously successful career, Troyat presents a brilliant portrait that reads like an e ...more
Paperback, 896 pages
Published January 18th 2001 by Grove Press (first published 1965)
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Tolstoy stars here as the villainous hero of his own life story, my abiding memory is the sense that Troyat didn't much like his subject, admittedly this memory coming from his description of Tolstoy's wedding, he married the daughter of a woman he had once asked to marry when he was a young man and having been turned down by the mother popped up years later to carry off the daughter, by which time he had made a name for himself as a writer, but had also been treated several times for syphilis, ...more
Sep 23, 2010 Dia rated it really liked it
For all of its size, this biography of Tolstoy becomes increasingly claustrophobic as it tracks Tolstoy's intellectual development; Tolstoy's intellect seems always to have been driven by guilt, but to have progressed from an intellect that could tolerate guilt to one that could not. Thus Tolstoy became increasingly judgmental and paralyzed, and to read an intimate portrayal of his later years becomes excruciating -- even setting aside the chaotic pressures provided by his wife, family, and disc ...more
Anna Kim-galante
Feb 06, 2013 Anna Kim-galante rated it it was amazing
One of the top three biographies I've ever read in my life. Almost liked it as much as reading Tolstoy
Grace Tjan
Troyat's 700-plus pages biography reads like a Tolstoy novel. It follows Tolstoy's life in detail, quoting extensively from his and his family's copious diaries. His marriage, which started happily enough, and then turned into a nightmare for both him and his wife was morbidly fascinating. It was like watching a slow train wreck. Altogether, a satisfiying if rather lengthy portrait of a complicated genius.

Jul 20, 2012 Liz rated it it was amazing
One of the most extensive biogrpahies I have ever read - this book is monumental in scope but precise in its detail. Suddenly you see Tolstoy's life like he must have, and his actions begin to make sense in their own context, instead of seeming crazy like they might to someone who just plotted his life on a calendar.

Really remarkable. I'd never read any tolstoy until I took a survey class my Freshman year - the Life and Art of Lev Tolstoy with the head of our Slavic Languages department at GW.
Mishka Zakharin
Oct 05, 2008 Mishka Zakharin rated it it was amazing
Troyat is the greatest biographer I've read--and not just because he's covered pretty much all of the Russian writers and tsars... (though, yes, that was pretty swell of him to do...) He doesn't just spit out facts, he tells a story... I only wish more of his bios were available in English.
Oct 26, 2012 Alisu' rated it it was amazing
"La Lev Tolstoi, nevoia de a fi impotriva opiniei generale devenise o a doua natura. Ca si cum, print-o contrazicere sistematica, si-ar fi dovedit propria sa existenta. Parea ca spune: 'Gindesc pe dos decit ceilalti, deci exist!'"
Mar 03, 2008 Thacher rated it it was amazing
Reading this wonderful biography of Tolstoy is almost better than reading a Tolstoy novel. His life was an adventure, and the way he wove his own life into his books is fascinating.
Sep 29, 2013 Edith rated it really liked it
Rendkívül precízen Tolsztojnak szinte minden napjáról tudósít hitelesnek tekinthető források (naplók, levelek, visszaemlékezések, életrajzok) alapján. Sokat megtudhattam a világ egyik legnagyobb írójáról, de nem állíthatom, hogy megszerettem a személyiségét. 15 gyermeket nemzett, akikkel kevéssé törődött. 16 évvel fiatalabb felesége mindig mindenben a rendelkezésére kellett, hogy álljon. Rendszeresen különféle erkölcsi, életvezetési fogadalmakat tett, ezekre azonban többnyire már másnap nem is e ...more
Jan 25, 2016 Rod rated it it was amazing
With Tolstoy's penchant for writing a diary throughout his life and his voluminous correspondence a biographer has much material to work with. In addition his wife Sonya kept a diary. Recorded impressions of Tolstoy written by all the major Russian writers active during his lifetime were available. What comes out of all of this is similar to that which comes out when just about any famous figure's life is minutely examined. Despite the achievements the famous person has flaws and difficulties no ...more
Jun 14, 2015 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-life, owned, europe
Hard to rate this book. It's the first biography of Tolstoy I've read, and will not be the last. I think it was a great starting point, because it was oh so thorough. Copious quotations from Tolstoy's letters and diaries, and the writings of those who surrounded him. Troyat's prose is exceptional much of the time, dry and matter-of-fact at other times. I hate to say it, but this could have been trimmed from 800 to 600 pages, and would have been strengthened by the process.
Troyat definitely has b
Sep 13, 2010 Caitlin rated it it was amazing
This is an exhausting and exhaustive biography on the great Leo Tolstoy. I am a Tolstoy lover, so this book made the man behind the great works very real, with all of his hypocrises and true passions. His manic-depressive relationship with his wife put a lot of strain on him. He wanted to live a peaceful life, but his own voracious passions, and his fame, prevented him from fading away into a commune. Although there were already Tolstoyan communes in the Caucausus region. I have read this book t ...more
Wow, this is really in-depth, almost a day by day account. It took me a while to read because of the amount of info crammed onto each page. I've loved all of Troyat's books, that I've read. My fear after reading this is that all other biographies will seem like they're skimming the surface. It did a good job of showing Tolstoy as a young man as well as the bearded old man that he is so often thought of.
Jerry Sattin
Jul 08, 2013 Jerry Sattin rated it really liked it
Despite its length, and despite the fact that it is translated from the French, this biography is wonderfully readable. It depicts Tolstoy with a critical eye, and Troyat shares with his reader his amusement at Tolstoy's inconsistent and hypocritical character. The selections from Tolstoy's diaries are also well chosen.
Sep 24, 2011 Miriam rated it it was amazing
I read this book when I was 14 and loved it. As an adult, I found an inexpensive used copy and snatched it up. Tolstoy was an interesting person and an excellent writer. Troyat made Tolstoy's life come alive for me and made me want to read Tolstoy's books. After this biography I ploughed through every Tolstoy book I could get my hands on.
Gwenyth Crabtree
Aug 17, 2011 Gwenyth Crabtree rated it it was amazing
Awesome. A biography with so much "life," even Tolstoy would have approved, I bet. Flowing, beautiful, complex language - harmonious with Tolstoy's style and compatible with the depth in which his life is described. Tolstoy was more of a revolutionary than I knew. A short interesting fact: Princess Marya from War and Peace was modeled after his own mother.
Rob Prince
Dec 17, 2014 Rob Prince rated it it was amazing
From his profligate youth (addicted gambler, screwed his brains out with anything female that crossed his path) to moral compass...this is a wonderful biography of the "spiritual journey" - a term I cringe to use - of a great author. If War and Peace is to imposing, try his short stories or my personal favorite "Resurrection"
Pradeep Badatiya
Jun 05, 2015 Pradeep Badatiya rated it it was amazing
Tolstoy's ideas on nonviolent resistance, expressed in such works as The Kingdom of God Is Within You, were to have a profound impact on such pivotal 20th-century figures as Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and James Bevel.
Lee-Ellen Macon
Really interesting book about Russian history with revelations which will explain America today, and I've read many history books.
Tom Schulte
This biography of the famous Russian paints him as a vain literary genius wasting away a fortune with a profligate lifestyle and feeling really guilty about it.
Aug 13, 2009 NHU rated it it was amazing
Am re reading for the third time in 40 years.
It just gets better. It's more of a Tolstoyan
novel than the real thing. I also re read Jay
Parini's "The Last Station" recently too.
Oct 06, 2012 Ted rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this 20-30 years ago. I remember it was very good, and the account of Tolstoy's last few days/hours I still do remember, partially at any rate.
Rex Cluff
Mar 19, 2012 Rex Cluff rated it really liked it
An epic biography as befits an epic author. What a complex life he led and tragic in his inability to be husband, father as well as author and philosopher.
Kate rated it it was amazing
Nov 13, 2011
Hermengarda Valle-Frias
Hermengarda Valle-Frias rated it it was amazing
Apr 11, 2016
Anatole David
Anatole David rated it liked it
Feb 20, 2014
Alexandra rated it really liked it
Sep 28, 2013
Oct 13, 2011 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
This is an exhaustive and excellent biography of Tolstoy.
Jamie rated it it was amazing
May 13, 2016
Matthew Forsythe
Matthew Forsythe rated it it was amazing
Mar 18, 2013
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He was a french author, biographer, historian and novelist.

Troyat was born Levon Aslan Torossian in Moscow to parents of Armenian descent. His family fled Russia in anticipation of revolution. After a long exodus taking them to the Caucasus on to Crimea and later by sea to Constantinople and then Venice, the family finally settled in Paris in 1920, where young Troyat was schooled and later earned
More about Henri Troyat...

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