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Divine and Human Paperback – May 7, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

These 16 selections from Tolstoy's final eclectic collection of tales titled The Sunday Reading Stories represent the Russian novelist's turn away from the troubling human condition in Anna Karenina toward a growing preoccupation with moral issues. Some are brief vignettes, like "The Archangel Gabriel," "The Repentant Sinner" and "The Son of a Thief," in which a prospective juror disqualifies himself because he cannot sit in judgment on a thief when his own father committed the same crime. Several of the stories are adaptations--"Stones," from a fable by E. Poselianin; "The Power of Childhood," from Victor Hugo's "The Civil War"; and "Sisters," a poignant retelling of Guy de Maupassant's "In the Port," about a sailor's shore leave at Marseilles. "Divine and Human," set in 1870s Russia at a peak of struggle between the government and revolutionaries, centers around student Anatoly Svetlogub, who is convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the government and spends his final days reading the New Testament. With the exception of a few entries, this is the first English translation of these pieces, which were suppressed first by the czarist government and then by the Soviets. Hardly controversial in the eyes of contemporary American readers, these selections are not particularly noteworthy as critiques of either aristocracy or communism, but rather as lovely artifacts that give us further insight into Tolstoy's notions of wisdom and spirituality. Though this book is published by an evangelical house, the fragments of Tolstoyan theology Sekirin has chosen for it are best described as universalist. All in all, it is a delightful addition to any Tolstoy collection or a fine introduction to his work. (May) FYI: Coincidentally, Northwestern University Press is issuing its own translation of three of the stories included in the Zondervan edition, in a volume also titled Divine and Human. "Berries," "What For?" (titled "Why Did It Happen?" in the Zondervan edition) and "Divine and Human" are translated and introduced by Gordon Spence. Spence's introduction stresses the political import and allegory of the tales, all three of which were written around the time of the Russian revolution of 1905. All the royalties from the publication of Northwestern's edition will go to Amnesty International. ($16.95 paper 168p ISBN 0-8101-1762-2; June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Russian writer Leo, or Lev, Tolstoy wrote a number of unpretentious and straightforward stories with a plain Christian moral for primary school children. Sekirin, a doctoral student at the University of Toronto, has translated 16 such tales. Some appear here in English for the first time, and some can be found in Tolstoy's Twenty-Three Tales, translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude (1975). Tolstoy did not originate all of these stories, though they did come from his pen: he often rewrote or adapted stories from such diverse writers as Victor Hugo, Nokolai Leskov, and Guy de Maupassant. All the tales, however, show the hand of the Master; Tolstoy is unsurpassed in making his point by letting the facts speak for themselves. Sekirin's translation reads more easily than the Maudes' volume and uses simpler grammar. Though the stories have literary value, they aim primarily at religious readers. Recommended for public and church libraries.DBert Beynen, Des Moines Area Comm. Coll. Lib., IA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (May 7, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310223679
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310223672
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,381,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Kimberley Yates on June 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
For those who find Tolstoy's novels too long, or love them anyhow, this is a collection of tiny, perfect short stories written near the end of Tolstoy's life, and newly translated into English. Well-developed characters circle around ethical and spiritual knots which refuse pat endings. All is illuminated by Tolstoy's intense and gentle wisdom. Suitable for children or adults, these characters will stay with you for a long time.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Igor Otshelnik on April 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
I'll be brief: this is a wonderful book to buy for your child and for your own reading pleasure. These short little stories are so true to life, easy to read and so full of wisdom that they haunted me for a long time after I read them. They make you stop and think. They make you wonder. They make you ask yourself questions. The characters described and their problems are very easy to identify with and, more importantly, they help you draw a line between the temporal and ordinary and the eternal truth of life. Very good read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michael Kear VINE VOICE on September 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
For every person who started War and Peace and got bogged down somewhere between page 300 and 1000, this book is for you. For every Christian who thinks that USAmerican churchianity has taken a dreadfully wrong road, this book is for you. For every libertarian, whether you know you are one or not, this book is for you. For every lover of 19th century Russia fiction, this is a must have for your collection.

A collection of short stories, parables, and an essay, you need to know that Divine and Human is not the Tolstoy of War and Peace or Anna Karenina. This is post-conversion Tolstoy. This is the kind of stuff that got Count Leo Tolstoy declared a heretic by the Russian Orthodox Church and an anarchist by the Russian government. Be prepared: although these tales are beautifully written, kind and gentle in their approach, a truly radical Christianity shines brightly through every sentence. Tolstoy seriously believed that the authentic manifestation of Christianity was in the following of Jesus Christ and His gospel, particularly the Sermon on the Mount. Recognizing the authority of Jesus Christ as the vanquisher of principalities and powers and following His teachings is a permanently life-altering experience. This is what Divine and Human is about.

Among these small gems, my personal favorites are "The Poor People," "Kornei Vasiliev," "The Berries," "The Son of a Thief," and the essay "The Requirements of Love." These are parables of generosity, forgiveness, faith and responsibility.

Tolstoy's sword cuts in every direction. He shows very succinctly how neither conservative nor liberal approaches to human and social problems holds the answers, but only the radical following of Christ which brings about the eradication of the causes of those problems.
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