Mounir's Reviews > Childhood. Adolescence. Youth

Childhood. Adolescence. Youth by Leo Tolstoy
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Jan 15, 11

bookshelves: a-english-translation, autobiography-سيرة-ذاتية, literature-russian
Read from October 10, 2010 to January 15, 2011

** spoiler alert ** Reading the three parts of this semi-autobiographical novel was an interesting experience to me. It was not at all what I expected it to be. It is in some way a sort of Confessions, but the interesting thing is that he confeses about "ordinary" things: about self-centredness, his feelings of inferiority, egoism, snobbery and about looking down at people lower than himself in social class, and at the samr time about the pretenses he used to compensate for his feelings of inferiority. Tolstoy here is in many respects honest with himself and the reader, and especially in the third part "Youth" which I liked most, he talks with so much frankness and reveals a lot about himself in an admirable way. My personal impression is that his writing was improving progressively as he wrote, probably as he gained more courage and insight about himself which drove him to reveal more and more as the story progressed.
In spite of that there were some disadvantages: There were many passages and even whole chapters which seemed totally unnecessary, they added nothing significant to his main theme. His emotions seemed to be almost always supressed throughout most of the book with a lot of philosophising and intellectulaisation. On many occasions he would leave the narrative and digress into something like a short essay about love or whatever. Was this the mood of the time ? Was it Tolstoy's character trait ? or is it a defensive attitude he had to use to avoid revealing too much about himself ?!
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Reading Progress

10/13/2010 page 36
8.0% "I said I was crying because I had had a bad dream and had dreamt that Mama had died and was beng taken to the cemetery . I invented all this, for I really could not recall waht I had dreamt that night, but when Karl ivanych, moved by my words, began to comfort and console me, I imagined that I had truly dreamt this terrible dream and I now shed tears for a different reason. p. 33"
10/24/2010 page 91
20.0% "Besides the passionate attraction I felt towards him, his presence inspired in me..another feeling, a dread of distressing him, of offending him somehow.Perhaps this was because he seemed so arrogant or because, despising my own looks, I placed too much value on the advantages of beauty in others or, which was most probable, because, and this being an infallible sign of affection, I feared him as much as I loved him."
10/24/2010 page 97
21.0% "Besides the passionate attraction I felt towards him, his presence inspired in me..another feeling, a dread of distressing him, of offending him somehow.Perhaps this was because he seemed so arrogant or because, despising my own looks, I placed too much value on the advantages of beauty in others or, which was most probable, because, and this being an infallible sign of affection, I feared him as much as I loved him."
10/29/2010 page 135
30.0% "Before and after the funeral I did not cease crying and was sad, but I am ashamed to look back on that sadness, for it was always accompanied by some selfish feeling: either a desire to show others that I was more distressed than anyone else or concern about the impression I was making on others ... I despised myself for not experiencing a feeling of grief to the exclusion of everything else ... p. 121"
11/18/2010 page 150
33.0% "For the first time the thought clearly occured to me that not we alone, that is, our family, lived in this world, that not all interests centred on us, but that there existed another life, of people who had nothing in common with us, cared nothing for us and even had no idea of our existence. Certainly, I had known all this before, but I had known it not as I discovered it now. I had not realized, had not felt it."
11/19/2010 page 162
36.0% "I was too conceited to become resigned to my position and consoled myself as the fox did, persuading myself that the grapes were still sour; that is, I tried to despise all the pleasures afforded one by good looks, which I saw Volodya enjoying and which I envied with all my heart, and so exerted all the powers of my mind and imagination to find pleasure in haughty solitude. p. 155" 3 comments
12/07/2010 page 201
44.0% "It seems to me that the human mind in each given individual follows in its development along the same lines as have entire generations .....
It once occured to me that happiness does not depend on external causes but on our attitude towards them .."
12/12/2010 page 215
47.0% "[ finished the second part of the book : Adolescence ]"
12/26/2010 page 234
51.0% "I took...paper...and inscribed at the top "Rules of Life". These words were written so crookedly and unevenly that I debated at length whether to rewrite them and tortured myself for some time, staring at...the disfigured heading. Why was everything so beautiful and clear in my soul and so hideous when put down on paper - and in life generally, whenever I wished to put something I had thought about into practice ?"
12/27/2010 page 253
55.0% "suddenly there would waft in through the window some sweet breath of spring. It would seem as though there were something urgent that I had to remember just then ... while through my head, as though someone had touched a spring and set a machine in motion, all sorts of motely, delightful daydreams would begin to rush so easily, and naturally, and swiftly that I scarecely had time to notice their radiance. p.241"
01/14/2011 page 364
80.0% "I can confidently say that I was far better in reality than that strange creature I made myself out to be; but even in such a guise as I appeared to them, the Nekhlyudovs grew very fond of me and, to my good fortune, they evidently saw through my pretense. p 359"
01/15/2011 page 377
83.0% "I lay awake for hours, vacillating between respect for them, to which I was inclined by their knowledge, simplicity, honesty, poetry of youth and daring spirit, and the distaste which their ill-bred appearance inspired in me. p. 374"
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