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A Confession

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  12,657 ratings  ·  1,437 reviews
A Confession -- an essay by Leo Tolstoy on his religious thoughts -- shows the great author in process of looking for answers to profound questions that trouble all who take them on: "What will come of my life?" and "What is the meaning of life?" these are questions whose answers were an absolute requirement for Tolstoy. In the course of the essay, Tolstoy shows different ...more
Paperback, 108 pages
Published October 1st 2006 by Aegypan (first published 1880)
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Eliane What i understood is that one should just keep looking up, trusting blindly that what's beneath isnt scary. The moment you look down - question life a…moreWhat i understood is that one should just keep looking up, trusting blindly that what's beneath isnt scary. The moment you look down - question life and its meaning - you lose your sense of comfort and security. So the message i took from the ending is that one better just stop questioning.(less)

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Ahmad Sharabiani
Исповедь = Meine Beichte = A confession and other religious writings, Leo Tolstoy

Describing Tolstoy's crisis of depression and estrangement from the world, A Confession (1879) is an autobiographical work of exceptional emotional honesty.

By the time he was fifty, Tolstoy had already written the novels that would assure him of literary immortality; he had a wife, a large estate and numerous children; he was "a happy man" and in good health - yet life had lost its meaning.

In this poignant confes
Apr 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
When Tolstoy had a Massive Enlightenment experience in mid age, his illusions were irreparably shattered.

He saw clearly now that he had goofed up - big time - with War and Peace and Anna Karenina, the very blockbusters that had made him a worldwide household name.

Like Sartre, the irruption of the Absurd had set his world - and his Very Fame - on its head. And Tolstoy knew he had had it all wrong.

For his vision of a happy family was based on a petit bourgeois sham, as Sartre saw.

Instead of all h
Jan 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
in his 50's, a severely panicked and depressed tolstoy wished for the strength to kill himself, but couldn't do it. instead he wrote this book detailing his discovery that life is 'evil and meaningless'. the first half is simply astonishing: i can't recall reading a more honest description of a life lived under the shadow of the inevitability of death; much less from a man who was, at the time, one of the world's most famous people. tolstoy's Confession is staggering in its simplicity, which is ...more
Mark André (on hiatus)
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tolstoy
An interesting little book. Unhappy with just being brilliant, famous and wealthy the author narrates the story of his personal quest to find the truth about existence: the point to being alive, and the correct way to happiness. First he challenges science and philosophy for answers. Then he contemplates suicide. Then he turns to the simplicity of the animals as he calls them, the peasants in the fields, and turns back to God and the church of his childhood. But once there he must challenge the ...more
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not quite sure how to review this nakedly honest disclosure of the mid-life spiritual crisis of one of the greatest literary giants. This short work really left me stunned, and it took some time to quiet my mind enough to pen my thoughts.

In the first part of the story, Tolstoy explains his frustration (which ultimately shapes into depression) over not understanding the meaning of life. He resorts to science, philosophy, metaphysics, and religious practices to learn the true meaning of life.
May 23, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tolstoi’s struggle with the meaning of life, and his conclusion: it’s complicated
An interesting pendant to Anna Karenina; you recognize a lot of Ljevin, Vronski and even Anna in Leo Tolstoy his tale about his life and spiritual awakening.

General a.k.a. what's the meaning of life?
I vividly remember a discussion with some friends during a dinner party, where the topic was the meaning of life.
Despite it's importance, this proved a hard question, I think "living a good life" came around but the an
I very much enjoyed this short novel that deals with life's struggles as it pertains with ones beliefs. Since I very much enjoy books on religion, spirituality and God, this book hit all the right buttons and then some.

I could definitely feel Tolstoy's anguish and agony in trying to figure out the meaning of life. I feel we've all been there at some point in our life.

This book probably isn't for everyone but, if you enjoy Tolstoy, then I encourage you to read this short novel and embrace his wor
Hammad Ali
Nov 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Love Tolstoy but judging by this book Tolstoy would have made a horrible dinner companion (or be really really bad at small talk).
"The fish is really good"

Tolstoy: "It is no good deceiving oneself. It is all vanity."

"So how was your day"

Tolstoy: "Why does everything exist that exists, and why do I exist? Because it exists"

"The weather is pretty nice today"

Tolstoy: "Surely that question has been asked since man began"

Overall good book, it has provided me with enough "DEEP" one liners that I c
Ibrahim choeb
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
”for in much wisdom is much grief, and he that increases his knowledge increases his sorrow”.

“My life came to a standstill. I could breathe, eat, drink, and sleep, and I could not help doing these things; but there was no life, for there were no wishes the fulfillment of which I could consider reasonable. I satisfied my desire or not, nothing would come of it.
I could not even wish to know the truth, for I guessed of what it consisted. The truth was that life is meaningless.”
“I should long ago ha
Much like Augustine's Confessions, this spiritual autobiography of the great Russian writer recounts the emptiness of the quite successful life he led until an existential crisis in late middle age compels him to find an answer to what he calls 'the problem of life'.

Reason leads him to the conclusion that there is, and can be, no meaning to life and that, of possible responses to that truth, suicide is the only logical choice. He notices that he takes the "weaker" choice of continuing to live in
Aug 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
It shouldn't surprise you when it happens, but it always does: you read someone's thoughts from over a hundred years ago and they mirror yours, exactly, in content if not in eloquence. Tolstoy's struggle extrating a faith he needs from a doctrine he abhors is a nearly universal intellectual journey.

The book is most valuable for two reasons: it explains how the irrational conclusions of fate actually fit into a system of reason, by changing the expectations of reason, and it details how denomina
Oct 24, 2011 rated it liked it
This book is not for religious persons only. As an Atheist I was quite touched by Tolstoy's struggle with the absurdity of life and the inevitability of death. Tolstoy looks for answers to life's biggest question "Why?" in the fields of science and philosophy but he is dissatisfied. Reason cannot explain the absurdity of life. Because of this, Tolstoy turns his attention towards faith. I was quite impressed by the hardships he suffered in order to reach a truth that has meaning to him. All those ...more
Feb 02, 2022 rated it it was amazing

This work is absolutely essential for anyone who has thought about the fallibility of reason in relation to finding the purpose of (your) human life. How can your life have purpose when all of your family members, all of your friends, all of your writings, all of your physical makings (whether temples, skyscrapers, tables, or code) will turn into dust — all will be forgotten. How can anything you do have meaning, knowing that it will all be gone? Your pleasures — they will cease. Nothing
I have been an avowed atheist for two years. I had mustered up enough courage to abandon the Christian life after a long battle of shattering the doubts. I was not able to do so because of the fear instilled in me that I would go to hell or not be saved from the Judgment Day. At that time, I was still an utter simpleton believing in something beyond logic. After reading some said heretical books such as of Richard Dawkins’ God Delusion ( 5 stars), Sam Harris’ A Letter to a Nation ( 5 stars ) and ...more
Ammara Abid
Nov 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the most terrific account I have ever read. This confession left me completely awestruck.

Don't know what to say....
Great people
Great courage
Great sayings.....

"I did not myself know what I wanted: I feared life, desired to escape from it, yet still hoped something of it".

"I began to understand that in the replies given by faith is stored up the deepest human wisdom and that I had no right to deny them on the ground of reason, and that those answers are the only ones which reply to l
Anna Karenina being the work that inspired me to start writing, I unconsciously developed a tendency to write stories similar to it.

So I realize, me like Tolstoy in “Confession”, the 'positive', anti-existentialist solution that we offer at the end of the story, we ourselves as authors do not believe in this solution; it does not satisfy us in the long term, yet, we perform tricks of magic and dishonesty just to end the story on a touch of joy.

What meaning is there in life which is not destroyed
Oct 31, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

What I really learned from reading this is that Tolstoy and I would have really enjoyed each other's company.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dave Schaafsma
I read this because my friend Jenn said she was reading it. Last year I read Anna Karenina (which I loved) and decades ago I had read War and Peace and some of his terrific stories such as "The Death of Ivan Ilych", but I had never read this piece. I think of myself as an agnostic, brought up in a conservative Dutch Calvinist religion, and once taught Bible in a Christian school, so I am familiar with and have read theology and am always exploring spiritual issues in my reading, one way or the o ...more
Lynn Beyrouthy
Mar 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
At first glance, you would probably scoff at this typical account of a non-believer who finds his way back to God, something I'm sure everyone has been exposed to during their excruciating years on the desks of Jesuit classrooms. But you would find yourself intrigued and disconcerted when the author is none other than the Russian giant, Leo Tolstoy.

And really, who am I to give a mediocre rating to a book by such an erudite writer and ingenious thinker? It is the man whose anarcho-pacifism inspir
Ibrahim Niftiyev
ENG: I really enjoyed reading "A confession" from Leo Tolstoy. I used to read a small trilogy of him and really hadn't a clear vision of his style. It is hard to believe that you can read exactly what you were and are feeling every time you start to think about the meaning of life and some cursed questions. Probably, you know what I mean and I won't go to deep levels by analyzing the philosophical and moral aspects of the book. However, the only and main thing what I really aspire to say is that ...more
Toria (some what in hiatus)
Jun 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
To be honest I find Leo Tolstoy a little scary to read still even though I've read works from him before, I still havnt got throughy feelings of his works being complicated. I saw this on my book app and decided to give it a try as it's a short story and I'm very glad I did. It was very raw and personal. You can really feel the intense emotion Leo Tolstoy feelt for religion and life and it was a very interesting read. ...more
Dec 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Tolstoy's struggle with faith in mid-life...reconciling concrete knowledge with belief without proof which offered him wisdom of meaning in his life and death. ...more
Sep 01, 2014 added it
Shelves: uiowa
I like to think an elderly Tolstoy would be distraught about the effect his Confession (1880) has had on me, which is to deeply unsettle me with his thinking during his depressed period, without my finding comfort in his ultimate conclusion that faith is the essence of life. He would be such because he came to find all art (or creative works such as this) which aren’t immediately comprehensible by the simplest of simpletons, and which points them in the direction of salvation, to be worthless1. ...more
Fresh as paint, this.

Much more than a Boy-Meets-God rerun, Confession is Tolstoy telling you in earnest how it was for him. Early religious uncertainty gives way to youthful arrogance, and eventually, full-blown nihilistic malaise. He becomes fearful of hunting with a gun lest he should become quarry for his thoughts; rope appears suddenly lovely and wonderful. Though he longs to stop living, he cannot bring himself to end his life.

The second half of Confession amounts to the bargain Tolstoy str
Apr 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In this book Tolstoy seeks the answer to a question no doubt we all have: " What is the meaning of life?" or how he expressed it: "Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?"

His journey was, if anything, a most relatable one. It's a cathartic experience when someone, who lived 100+ years ago, under completely different circumstances, can in detail describe the dread and despair one experiences when seeking the answer. His despair was at a point where
Mar 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
From BBC radio 4 Extra:
Episode 1 of 10
Early doubts about religion and the existence of God.

Episode 2 of 10
Leo Tolstoy's passionate search for the meaning of life. Can writing and family provide the answer?

Episode 3 of 10
Does death make life pointless? Leo Tolstoy's passionate search for the meaning of life read by Joss Ackland.

Episode 4 of 10
Leo Tolstoy's passionate search for the meaning of life. Can philosophy provide an answer?

Episode 5 of 10
Leo Tolstoy's passionate search for the meaning of

The only absolute knowledge attainable by man is that life is meaningless.

Everything in the world-both folly and wisdom, wealth and
poverty, joy and sorrow-all is vanity and emptiness. A man dies
and nothing remains. And this is absurd," says Solomon.

What will come of what I do today and tomorrow? What will come of my entire life?
Expressed differently, the question may be: Why should I live? Why should I wish for anything or do anything? Or to put it still differently: Is there any meaning in my lif
What makes this book so powerful for me is the fact that I too am struggling with similar issues, questions and doubts that Tolstoy experienced and wrote about in this concise book. I can almost feel the agonizing pain he suffers as he questions life, its meaning and his own purpose in it. I suppose anyone who spends a great deal of time on introspection will sooner or later go through this crisis that he writes about here.

The part that I appreciated the most for its profundity was his statemen
Zachary Brown
Feb 16, 2021 rated it it was ok
I cannot fathom why I find Tolstoy so contemptible all throughout this book. Perhaps I project anger onto his noncommital tendencies. Regardless, the book doesn’t put forward a lot of original content. The journey from rich asshole to faithful commonman is a tale as old as the good book itself. In fact, as a man who proclaimed to have judiciously surveyed the scriptures as a youth, I cannot believe he ignored the parallels of many parables to his own life much earlier. Perhaps we wrestle with th ...more
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Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (Russian: Лев Николаевич Толстой; most appropriately used Liev Tolstoy; commonly Leo Tolstoy in Anglophone countries) was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. His two most famous works, the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time and a pinnacl ...more

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