Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Confession” as Want to Read:
A Confession
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Confession

by
4.09  ·  Rating details ·  9,488 ratings  ·  1,020 reviews
Describing Tolstoy's crisis of depression and estrangement from the world, A Confession is an autobiographical work of exceptional emotional honesty. It describes his search for 'a practical religion not promising future bliss but giving bliss on earth'. Although the Confession led to his excommunication, it also resulted in a large following of Tolstoyan Christians spring ...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published August 7th 2008 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 1880)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Confession, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about A Confession

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,488 ratings  ·  1,020 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of A Confession
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
...more
brian
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
Fergus
Apr 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Mark André
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tolstoy, russian-lit
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
Piyangie
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not quite sure how to write a review for 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 meani
...more
Henk
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
...more
Loretta
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
...more
Hammad Ali
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
...more
Ibrahim choeb
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
”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
...more
Joe
Aug 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Bogdan
Oct 24, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ammara Abid
Nov 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
and
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
...more
Joey
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
Yousra Serry
3.5

What I really learned from reading this is that Tolstoy and I would have really enjoyed each other's company.
David 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
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
...more
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
Cheryl Kennedy
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.
Ben
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nick
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
ATJG
Apr 07, 2017 added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
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
...more
Simona
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review
I read somewhere that this is the most important book for understanding his works. I agree with this part, but I don't completely agree with his thinking ... but hey, that's his confession and who I am to judged his thoughts and feelings ... except that - I think it's the best book I've read this year, so far. Slightly socially critical, moving, an extraordinary insight into his thoughts about depression, faith, life, family ... and, of course, the main starting point of all the thinking is the ...more
Laura
Mar 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Hans
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
...more
Meaningless

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
...more
Stephen Douglas Rowland
Finding myself at 38 in much the same crisis as Tolstoy found himself at 51, I decided to read this to see if the so-called Russian master could help save me from the terrifying meaninglessness of existence. SPOILER ALERT: after 50 pages of saying the same thing over and over again (namely that life is an evil absurdity) he suddenly finds GOD. After disparaging GOD for most of the book he realizes he is absolutely FILLED WITH GOD. Or some such useless shit. He should have followed his heart and ...more
Thomas
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“But then I turned my gaze upon myself, on what went on within me, and I remembered all those cessations of life and reanimations that recurred within me hundreds of times. I remembered that I only lived at those times when I believed in God. As it was before, so it was now; I need only be aware of God to live... All this was clear to me, and I was glad and at peace. Then it is as if someone is saying to me, "See that you remember." And I awoke.”
Marwa Assem Salama
“Why am I here?” Not this familiar existential question, which no one could answer, is what earns this book special. Simply it is the time it has been asked at is what makes all the remainder to me. As Leo Tolstoy has never held the essence of this question while he was in the bottom of nothing. On the contrary, he exercised that when he was on the top of everything; Success, fame, and social stability. Perhaps that’s why I felt this confession is very nearly similar to the painstaking doubt jou ...more
Rasydan Fitri
Jan 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A journey and reflection of Tolstoy's own walk through the balance between reason and faith, life and death. I am experiencing some similar thoughts and it helped me strengthen my own stand on life and faith.

It also critiques society especially the learned and literary groups.
UpdatedSpring
Apr 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • التصوف
  • الأقلام
  • قليل من الشعر أو شيء يشبهه
  • الصعود إلى القمر
  • الملكة إليزابيث الثانية، ملكة الألفيتين
  • Notes from Underground
  • بابلو إسكوبار - ملك الكوكايين المحبوب
  • The Dream Of A Ridiculous Man
  • تقرير موضوعي عن سعادة مدمن المورفين
  • دراكولا - فلاد المخوزق
  • انسان‌گرایی در سعدی
  • 30 طريقة للموت
  • هنري هوارد هولمز، الشيطان في المدينة البيضاء
  • كليوباترا: المرأة والملكة والمغوية والمنتحرة
  • White Nights
  • ستيفن هوكنج - الذهاب الي اللانهاية
  • Poor Folk
  • جنكيز خان - الخان الذي لا يُقهر
See similar books…
17,954 followers
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (Russian: Лев Николаевич Толстой; 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 pinnacle of realist fiction. Many consider To ...more

Related Articles

Philippa Gregory is best known for reimagining the lives of famous royal women in bestselling novels, including The Other Boleyn...
69 likes · 33 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.” 1334 likes
“The only absolute knowledge attainable by man is that life is meaningless.” 200 likes
More quotes…