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Tolstoy Paperback – March 30, 2001


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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French
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Product Details

  • Series: Grove Great Lives
  • Paperback: 896 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; 1st Grove Press ed edition (March 30, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802137687
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802137685
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #765,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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This book just flows.
Michael R. Perkins
Tolstoy deserves a biography which is comprehensive in depth and contains details not only of his life but also of his works......Troyat has given us this.
Brian Kerecz
It is well written and chock full of detail.
Michael Keller

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

69 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Cipriano on June 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
Tolstoy once wrote in his diary "Nobody will ever understand me." I can imagine that many biographers have been tormented by those words as they tried to compile and collate information about the extraordinary life of this great "lion" of writers. Troyat has done a remarkable job of this daunting monumental task, and his book ought to be considered essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the lifelong inner struggle that seemed to fuel the creative genius of Leo Tolstoy. As others have commented, it truly does read with the pace and interest of a sweeping epic novel, and there doesn't seem to be any possible chronological gap that could be missing. It's all here: Tolstoy's ancestry, the early loss of both his parents, his military youth in the Caucasus, his bouts with profligacy, his fickle literary friendships, his blunderous courtship and tumultuous (to put it mildly) marriage with Sofya Behrs... and all of his day-to-day glaring contradictory theories that remind us of Herzen's assessment of him: "He oversteps the limits. His brain does not take time to digest the impressions it absorbs." Everything is here: his vacillating acceptance and rejection of earthly comfort, his never ending search for some form of self-imposed suffering to atone for his affluence, his frustrating envy of all who had the good fortune of being unfortunate... his ultimate rejection of a fortune.
In my opinion, Leo Tolstoy was the greatest writer the world has ever produced. I've read other biographies of him, and consider Troyat's to be the best for many reasons, not the least of which is his selective restraint with detail. It's obvious that he probably read upwards of a million pages in order to give us this 900, and the finished product is never tedious. His look at Tolstoy is unbiased, he does not try to canonize him. It takes a great man to have every stone of his life upturned like this, and yet emerge as a hero. Tolstoy does!
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Brian Kerecz on August 17, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Henri Troyat has done a superb job of crafting the life story of Leo Tolstoy into something which almost reads as a novel, a page-turner in its own right. The intimacy with which he thoroughly knows of and understands Leo Tolstoy's life and his works is nothing short of remarkable, and this is a biography I would be surprised at seeing bettered any time down the road. Tolstoy is on view for all to see, from his world-renowned works, to personal letters written to close acquaintances, to his own personal diary, Troyat makes use of every available resource to give us an up close and personal view of Tolstoy's life. The research done in comprising this most thorough work of Tolstoy's life is simply astonishing. Troyat has crafted a masterpiece which is fun to read, though admittedly this was made a tad easier as it was biography of Tolstoy's life he had to work with.

Tolstoy is a man of many dichotomies and this is at least partly what makes his life so very interesting. He was one of the greatest writers of all time, yet he despised literature. He inspired a peace movement led by Gandhi, and yet at one time owned peasants (admittedly early on in his life). He wrote of how life should be lived, and yet could not get along with his own wife (and wound up dying in a train station at the age of 82). The life of Leo Tolstoy cannot be summarized in a few short paragraphs, and even if it could, it would be doing a great man a grave injustice. Tolstoy deserves a biography which is comprehensive in depth and contains details not only of his life but also of his works......Troyat has given us this.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 23, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Henri Troyat surely deserves every award known to biographers. The man is a genius. This is lucky for us, because Tolstoy's complexity demands genius to even comprehend it. But comprehend it Troyat does. As Doubleday said of Troyat about this book, he possesses "a combination of talents almost Tolstoyan in breadth and scope." How else can you define an author so wonderfully in tune with his subject but by the very definition of that subject?
The strength of this book is its depth and scope. It covers everything from Tolstoy's birth to death, and I mean everything: The young nobleman obsessed with charity, the artistic ectasy, the sexual scandals and insatiability, the marriage and the children, and yet the saintliness of the philospher and theologian, monk and hermit. Troyat amazingly covers the entirity of Tolstoy's life and works. It is an entire world revealed, in infinite detail, to its horizons and then beyond. (800 pages and, no, that is not large type) This tale of Leo Tolstoy proves the man is every bit as large as his legend, and so much more. Every page is filled with breathtaking revelations, touching and frightning displays, family secrets and public explosions, and intimiate looks behind every deed of the man in the very words of his own hand. This book is psychology, philosophy, theology, anthropolgy, poetry, truth, and on yes, biography so incredibly well-written it reads better than most novels.
M. Troyat, my hat is off to you. Thank you for one of the most enjoyable and informative reads of my life.
Thomas Fortenberry
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