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4.09  ·  Rating details ·  7,452 ratings  ·  756 reviews
In 1879 the fifty-one-year-old author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina came to believe that he had accomplished nothing and that his life was meaningless.

Marking a shift in his career from the aesthetic to the religious, Tolstoy's Confession relates this spiritual crisis, posing the question: Is there any meaning in my life that will not be destroyed by my death? It is a
Paperback, 96 pages
Published August 17th 1996 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 1880)
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4.09  · 
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 ·  7,452 ratings  ·  756 reviews

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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
Jan 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
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 in to depression) over not understanding the meaning of life. He resorts to science, philosophy, metaphysics and religious practices to learn the true meani
Mark André
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
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  ·  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
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
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
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
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
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Yousra Serry

What I really learned from reading this is that Tolstoy and I would have really enjoyed each other's company.
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
Apr 07, 2017 added it
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
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

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
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
Aug 11, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Sometimes you cross paths with a book that perfectly compliments that moment in your life. This just happened with me and Comrade Tolstoy and his Confession. When this happens. When you happen to open, unintentionally, the exact book for your current [fill in the blank- obssession, crisis, etc.] it feels predestined. It is a cosmic dance of serendipitous delight.

Lately I've been perseverating over some thoughts. Pesky thoughts. My partner is a little bored (aka annoyed) of hearing about them. Wh
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A powerful book. Tolstoy became entirely disillusioned with life in middle age (around 50), and this is the story of his journey into the darkness and back out again.
Shortly after writing Anna Karenina, Tolstoy had a spiritual crisis so severe he had to hide cord lest he would hang himself and cease to go hunting lest he would be tempted by such an easy way of ending his life. If those words sound familiar – they should, they sound very much the same as his description of Levin in Anna Karenina.

What is so startling about this essay is the directness, intensity, and honesty of Tolstoy – regardless of his conclusion. He is sincerely tormented about being unab
Sehar  Moughal
There is a time and place for every book. You mustn't read this book if you are satisfied with your life and your faith, and/or if everything makes sense. Nothing bad would happen if you did, only that you won't fully appreciate the essence of Tolstoy's confession.

With each word, Tolstoy put a nail in my coffin of a heart. My pain was not only my pain. Someone else had felt the existential failure, the conflict beating against their chest like a caged bird, and finally (Thank God) found God - f
Ajim Bagwan
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I would recommend this short biographical account of Leo Tolstoy to everyone who has ever had an existential crisis or pondered over the meaning of life. It's an incredibly honest and simplistic description of Tolstoy's own quest in searching for the meaning of life and in deciding if life is worth living and in what ways it differs for different groups of people.

He unfolds his reasoning in relation to his life and the lives of others around him by way of a logical and rational analysis. H

Description: 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 attempts to find answers on the examples of science, philosophy, eastern
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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
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“Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.” 1241 likes
“The only absolute knowledge attainable by man is that life is meaningless.” 186 likes
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