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Last Steps :  The Late Writings of Leo Tolstoy - Leo Tolstoy

Last Steps

The Late Writings of Leo Tolstoy

Paperback

Published: October 2009
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The year is 1910. "Anna Karenina" and "War and Peace" have made Leo Tolstoy the world's most famous author. But fame comes at a price. In this fascinating look at a tortured genius on the eve of death, Jay Parini presents Tolstoy's autobiographical writing alongside letters from loved ones to paint a portrait of the great author's final year. Desperate to find respite from his troubled marriage, Tolstoy ventures into the wilderness in search of isolation, only to find a battle for his soul and legacy that offers no peace. "Last Steps" puts a literary giant's life and work in perspective as it bears witness to his struggle to reconcile the two.'I think our life here has meaning only when we live in accordance with the commandment to love one another'

This new selection brings together the pivotal writings – essays, diaries and letters – from Tolstoy's turbulent later years, when he became increasingly tortured by personal and spiritual crises. It includes A Confession (1884) and other pieces in which he expressed his unorthodox version of Christianity, which eventually led to his excommunication by the Church. Here too are essays championing social justice, pacifism and various moral causes, including 'The First Step', a defense of vegetarianism; writings on aesthetic issues – such as 'What is Art?' (1896), a passionate argument that art must express ethical values – as well the famous, controversial 'Shakespeare and the Drama' (1906). Together these pieces show the force and fervour of Tolstoy's late writing to the full, shedding new light on his life and work during the last three decades.

This volume is edited by Jay Parini, author of The Last Station: A Novel of Tolstoy's Final Year, with an introduction placing the works of Tolstoy's final decades in their biographical and literary context.

Edited with an introduction by JAY PARINI
Translations by AYLMER MAUDE, LEO WIENER, and R.G. CHRISTIAN

About the Author

Count Leo Tolstoy was born in 1828. He took part in the Crimean War, and married Sofya Andreyevna Behrs in 1862. Over the next fifteen years they had thirteen children and Tolstoy managed his vast estates in the Volga Steppes, continued his educational projects, cared for his peasants and wrote War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877). A Confession (1879-82) marked a spiritual crisis in his life. In 1901 he was excommuincated by the Russian Holy Synod. He died in 1910, in the course of a dramamtic flight from home, at the small railway station of Astapovo.

Leo Tolstoy

Russian author, a master of realistic fiction and one of the world's greatest novelists.

Tolstoy is best known for his two longest works, War and Peace and Anna Karenina, which are commonly regarded as among the finest novels ever written. War and Peace in particular seems virtually to define this form for many readers and critics. Among Tolstoy's shorter works, The Death of Ivan Ilyich is usually classed among the best examples of the novella. Especially during his last three decades Tolstoy also achieved world renown as a moral and religious teacher. His doctrine of nonresistance to evil had an important influence on Gandhi. Although Tolstoy's religious ideas no longer command the respect they once did, interest in his life and personality has, if anything, increased over the years.

Most readers will agree with the assessment of the 19th-century British poet and critic Matthew Arnold that a novel by Tolstoy is not a work of art but a piece of life; the 20th-century Russian author Isaak Babel commented that, if the world could write by itself, it would write like Tolstoy. Critics of diverse schools have agreed that somehow Tolstoy's works seem to elude all artifice. Most have stressed his ability to observe the smallest changes of consciousness and to record the slightest movements of the body. What another novelist would describe as a single act of consciousness, Tolstoy convincingly breaks down into a series of infinitesimally small steps. According to the English writer Virginia Woolf, who took for granted that Tolstoy was “the greatest of all novelists,” these observational powers elicited a kind of fear in readers, who “wish to escape from the gaze which Tolstoy fixes on us.”

Those who visited Tolstoy as an old man also reported feelings of great discomfort when he appeared to understand their unspoken thoughts. It was commonplace to describe him as godlike in his powers and titanic in his struggles to escape the limitations of the human condition. Some viewed Tolstoy as the embodiment of nature and pure vitality, others saw him as the incarnation of the world's conscience, but for almost all who knew him or read his works, he was not just one of the greatest writers who ever lived but a living symbol of the search for life's meaning.

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ISBN: 9780141191195
ISBN-10: 0141191198
Series: Penguin Classics
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 368
Published: October 2009
Dimensions (cm): 19.8 x 12.8  x 2.1
Weight (kg): 19.6
Edition Number: 1