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Tolstoy: A Biography Paperback – March 17, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Must surely rank among the most impressively intelligent biographies ever written. -- Zena Sutherland, The Economist
Stands as a model of the biographer's art: intelligent and opinionated, yet judicious--and, what's more, deliciously readable. -- Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
Top Customer Reviews
Wilson states: "This book is primarily the story of a novelist... a great genius whose art grew out of his three uneasy and irresolvable relationships: his relationship with God, ... with women, ... with Russia. In all cases, the relationships were stormy, full of contradictions." Hmmpf, gross understatement!! While many readers may have no image whatsoever of Tolstoy, some (like me) visualized an icon: a saintly, dreamy, old man at odds with a lowbrow wife, and persecuted by a corrupt government. How wrong I was! His wife was for many years a full partner in his productivity. Only toward the end did Tolstoy and she become each other's torturers. The government forgave Tolstoy, a well-connected aristocrat, much that would have (and did) put other dissidents in czarist labor camps (e.g. poor Dostoyevsky!). [Though Tolstoy was a contemporary of Dostoyevsky, the two men made a deliberate point of never meeting each other.] - - - - One of the fascinations of this book is that one gets to know Leo Tolstoy "with all the warts".Read more ›
If you're searching for a brisk and entertaining read, and aren't too hung up on some small detail that Wilson got wrong, then I would definitely recommend Wilson's book. But if you're trying to write a MA thesis, and need the most thorough and accurate information on Tolstoy available, you might want to look elsewhere; as this would probably fit more into the genre of popular biography. Unfortunately, no book exists that is analogous to Joseph Frank's 5 volume biography of Dostoevsky, that focuses on his counterpart Leo Tolstoy, so the best option for someone doing a research paper would probably be Henri Troyat's.
Being a lover of Tolstoy's literature and philosophy, and having read brief snippets of Tolstoy's life in the preface of his novels, I was interested in learning more about the man himself. Wilson has produced a well researched biography that is informative and interesting to read. What I especially like is its clarity on what is fact and what are speculations based on his erratic diaries, using painstaking quotes, footnotes, literary excerpts, and bibliography to back up the author's and literary community's theories.
The result is a portrait of a man at odds with himself, who like Dostoevsky was a living representation of the duality of man. No wonder these writers were so profound at portaying the the human condition, mind, spirit, and soul. If only we could go back in time and walk with these men and speak with them personally, how rich we would be.
Beyond simply reporting the details of Tolstoy's life, Wilson offers an overview of most of Tolstoy's fiction and some additional analysis of his non-fiction work, particularly his later life essays on religion and government. One of the great insights in the book is how carefully Wilson ties the events and characters in War and Peace and Anna Karenina to the people who shaped Tolstoy's life. While it is a commonplace to say that novelists recycle themselves in their work to some degree, Wilson demonstrates how Tolstoy's life and fiction were thoroughly interwoven. For me, Wilson's analyses of Tolstoy's other fiction was so compelling that I immediately added a number of them to my short-term reading list.
It is not possible to discuss Tolstoy without considering the era in which he lived and his own role in 19th century Russian history. Tolstoy lived through the period in which Russia awoke from centuries of torpid slumber as the nascent intelligentsia and later the radicals sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution and the tragedy that became 20th century Russia.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As I begin, it is worth noting that death is all of the horrible things we deal with in our nightmares and daily thoughts and ongoing fears, but the death scene of Tolstoy,... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Cabin Dweller
Having read tow of Tolstoy's major works, War and Peace, and Anna Karenina, this biography gave an insight into the man, and the issues he struggled with all his life. Read morePublished on May 17, 2014 by M. Walsh
The only Tolstoy I’ve read is what has been excerpted in this book … so I am at a huge disadvantage to the author, A.N. Wilson. Read morePublished on April 11, 2014 by mark jabbour
Tolstoy has had many excellent biographers, starting with Almyer Maude, and even a writer of lightweight literary biographies like Henri Troyat had done justice to a fascinating... Read morePublished on February 15, 2014 by reading man
I bought it because of A N Wilson the author. Former prof of English at Oxford. His sentences are beautiful and his organization of voluminous material is so very palatable. Read morePublished on September 3, 2013 by Richard
I enjoyed this book for a variety of reasons. First, because it situates Tolstoy against the extraordinary events that were occurring in Russia during his lifetime, and of how he... Read morePublished on September 13, 2011 by John Mccarthy
A.N. Wilson's "Tolstoy: A Biography" is a crystalline depiction of one of the world's greatest novelists, yet most cruel men. Read morePublished on March 26, 2011 by Amaranth
Have been researching Molokans in Russia. The fascinating story of this eccentric and talented man included many tidbits applicable to our family history in Samara as well as... Read morePublished on March 26, 2008 by T. Isaeff