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What To Do? - Leo Tolstoy

Paperback Published: 1st October 2006
ISBN: 9781598184693
Number Of Pages: 208

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Translator's Note: Books which are prohibited by the Russian Censor are not always inaccessible. An enterprising publishing-house in Geneva makes a specialty of supplying the natural craving of man for forbidden fruit, under which heading some of Count Leo N. Tolstoy's essays belong. These essays circulate in Russia in manuscript and it is from one of these manuscripts, which fell into the hands of the Geneva firm, that the first half of the present translation has been made. It is thus that the Censor's omissions have been noted, even in cases where such omissions are in no way indicated in the twelfth volume of Count Tolstoy's collected works, published in Moscow. As an interesting detail in this connection, I may mention that this twelfth volume contains all that the censor allows of "My Religion," amounting to a very much abridged scrap of Chapter X in the last-named volume as known to the public outside of Russia. The last half of the present book has not been published by the Geneva house and omissions cannot be marked.

-- Isabel F. Hapgood
Boston, Sept. 1, 1887

ISBN: 9781598184693
ISBN-10: 1598184695
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 208
Published: 1st October 2006
Publisher: Alan Rodgers Books
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 22.9 x 15.2  x 1.2
Weight (kg): 0.31
Edition Type: Abridged

Leo Tolstoy


About the Author


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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