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Tolstoy: A Russian Life
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Bartlett's Tolstoy: beginning - chapter 4

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message 1: by Beth Asmaa (last edited Oct 06, 2012 09:08PM) (new)

Beth Asmaa (wildbirdmom) | 569 comments "When Lev was born on 28 Auust 1828, the youngest of four sons, he replaced Nikolay as the chief and final object of his mother's affections according to Aunt Toinette. His mother's nickname for him was 'mon petit Benjamin', but he was christened Lev, the Russian form of Leo." Tolstoy: A Russian Life, p. 33.


message 2: by Beth Asmaa (new)

Beth Asmaa (wildbirdmom) | 569 comments The biography opens with a map, chronology, and family tree. He lived through the Russian nineteenth century, dying before WW1. He married Sofya Bers in 1862. In his lifetime, Tolstoy was a novelist, educator, translator, and anti-capitalist. He founded a Tolstoyan sect, which displeased the orthodox church. The sect's pacifist, humanitarian tenets were counter to Tolstoy's aristocratic upbringing: "morally pure life", "giving up money and property", "sweat of brow", "treating others as 'brother'. "vegetarianism", "non-violence", "animal rights". Late in his life, he and Vladimir Chertkov worked toward publication of Tolstoy's later writings, its proceeds to support philanthropic aims. Their relationship and plans aggravated Sofya, who had borne thirteen children during her and Tolstoy's marriage and who earned income for the estate from Tolstoy's early writings.


message 3: by Beth Asmaa (new)

Beth Asmaa (wildbirdmom) | 569 comments Chapter 1, "Ancestors: The Tolstoys and the Volkonskys", recounts hypothetical stories about the derivation of Tolstoy's surname and family legends about his paternal and maternal ancestors.


message 4: by Beth Asmaa (new)

Beth Asmaa (wildbirdmom) | 569 comments Chapter 2, "Aristocratic childhood", describes the young Tolstoy's extended family and the memorable events, which he recollected in later writings and from which his beliefs developed. Some activities the biography mentions are hunting, riding, listening to the blind storyteller with his babushka Pelageya Nkolayevna, celebrating Christmastime festivities,... Even as a child, Tolstoy is characterized as independent, sensitive, non-conforming. Among his interesting, inspirational relatives are the tattooed Fyodor Ivanovich Tolstoy who spent time in Sitka, Alaska; and the eldest brother Nikolay Tolstoy whose 'ant brothers' ideal of "love and kindness" for "the whole of humanity" stayed with Tolstoy in adulthood.


message 5: by Beth Asmaa (last edited Oct 12, 2012 05:34PM) (new)

Beth Asmaa (wildbirdmom) | 569 comments In Chapter 3, "Orphanhood", the Tolstoys' temporarily move to Moscow in 1837, the same year Lev's father dies. They then return to Yasnaya Polyana, where his grandmother dies in 1838. The orphaned children's guardian Aunt Aline dies in 1841, so they move to Kazan where Aline's sister Aunt Polina will be the new guardian.

Of the many impressive children's stories Lev remembered, one was of the Russian "folk epics (byliny) about bogatyrs, "semi-historical and legendary heroes". Among them are Dobrinya Nikitich, Alyosha Popovich, and most importantly the boyar Ilya of Murom who is a "symbol of spiritual power" and to whom Tolstoy is compared by his being the "most powerful literary personification of the Russian people." The Russian writers Korolenko, Checkhov, and Tolstoy are said to parody the above three bogatyrs in a famous painting by Viktor Mikhaylovich Vasnetsov.


message 6: by Judy (new) - added it

Judy (patchworkcat) | 38 comments Thanks for posting the link to the painting, Asma.


message 7: by Beth Asmaa (last edited Oct 14, 2012 08:04AM) (new)

Beth Asmaa (wildbirdmom) | 569 comments You're welcome, Judy. I wonder what the cartoon of the literary horsemen will be like?


message 8: by Beth Asmaa (new)

Beth Asmaa (wildbirdmom) | 569 comments Chapter 4, "Youth"

His altruistic, artistic brother Dmitry and his debonair, social brother Sergey. His exams to enter Kazan University. Changes studies from oriental languages to law. Russian and foreign novels and writings influence his consciousness, especially those of the philosophers Rousseau and Diogenes. Keeps a journal and a diary, develops a philosophy about the "relationship between landowners and peasants", and studies independently of the university. Nearly nineteen years-old, he inherits Yasnaya Polyana and about three-hundred serfs.


message 9: by Haaze (new) - added it

Haaze | 9 comments Are you enjoying the biography Asma? Have you by any chance read any other biographies on Tolstoy? How does it compare? It is sitting right here on the top of a pile of books and I am tempted...... but there are so many books revolving around us (possessed by Halloween spirits!!!!)


message 10: by Beth Asmaa (last edited Nov 02, 2012 09:07AM) (new)

Beth Asmaa (wildbirdmom) | 569 comments Haaze, I am enjoying this biography about Tolstoy and am recommending it, if you get a chance! I am not presently studying Tolstoy, so there's not a lot of similar biographies for comparison.


message 11: by Haaze (last edited Nov 03, 2012 01:41PM) (new) - added it

Haaze | 9 comments Asma wrote: "Haaze, I am enjoying this biography about Tolstoy and am recommending it, if you get a chance! I am not presently studying Tolstoy, so there's not a lot of similar biographies for comparison."

Oh, great temptation.....!


message 12: by Haaze (last edited Nov 06, 2012 12:30PM) (new) - added it

Haaze | 9 comments Asma wrote: "The biography opens with a map, chronology, and family tree. He lived through the Russian nineteenth century, dying before WW1. He married Sofya Bers in 1862. In his lifetime, Tolstoy was a novelis..."

It is interesting to learn how active Tolstoy was beyond the profession of a novelist. I was quite unfamiliar with his efforts in education trying to increase literacy among Russian children. The biography's introduction mentioned that he learned Greek to translate fables into a Russian reader. It seems to be quite an enterprise. Why such an effort? I presume Bartlett gives more details later on? Regardless, it seems as Tolstoy is always portrayed as the iconic Russian novelist but it is quite clear that he wore many more hats. Bartlett writes well and in an enticing manner.


message 13: by Beth Asmaa (new)

Beth Asmaa (wildbirdmom) | 569 comments I now am aware of his publishing religious writings though plan to read more of his novels and shorter works.


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