Synopses & Reviews
and#8220;Magisterial sweep and scale.and#8221;and#8212;The Independent
In November 1910, Count Lev Tolstoy died at a remote Russian railway station. At the time of his death, he was the most famous man in Russia, with a growing international following, and more revered than the tsar. Born into an aristocratic family, Tolstoy had spent his life rebelling against not only conventional ideas about literature and art but also traditional education, family life, organized religion, and the state.
In this, the first biography of Tolstoy in more than twenty years, Rosamund Bartlett draws extensively on key Russian sources, including much fascinating material made available since the collapse of the Soviet Union. She sheds light on Tolstoyand#8217;s remarkable journey from callow youth to writer to prophet; discusses his troubled relationship with his wife, Sonya; and vividly evokes the Russian landscapes Tolstoy so loved and the turbulent times in which he lived. Above all, Bartett gives us an eloquent portrait of the brilliant, maddening, and contrary man who has once again been discovered by a new generation of readers.
Longlisted for the UK's BBC Samuel Johnson Prize
"[Bartlett's] deep and easy familiarity with her subject and the period
permits Bartlett to touch on both the thinkers and writers who engaged Tolstoy...while getting to the essence of the spiritual power that informs his work. Bartlett is particularly adept at assessing Tolstoy's impact..."
-Publishers Weekly, starred "A rich, complex life told in rich, complex prose."
-Kirkus, starred "Bartlettand#8217;s book is an exemplary literary biography."
-Library Journal, starred "[Bartlett's]Tolstoy biography should become the first resort for everyone drawn to its titanic subject."
-Booklist, starred "Rosamund Bartlett's new life of Tolstoy is a splendid book -- immensely readable, full of fresh details, and often quite brilliant in its perceptiveness about the greatest of Russian writers, and one of the stars in the western firmament. This biography has the sweep and vividness of literature itself, and I strongly recommend it."
-Jay Parini, author of The Last Station "It is difficult as a reader to take in the sheer scale and extent of Tolstoyand#8217;s interest and achievement. For the biographer to put all this into less than 500 pages is an achievement in itself. But Bartlett never seems hurried and she gives herself time to paint the scene for us, bringing the scent of Russian earth and grass to the nostrils."
-Financial Timesand#160; (UK) "The extraordinary character of the giant is captured better by Bartlett than by any previous biographer, and this is partly because she knows Russia so well... Superbly well written."
NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE
A New York Times Notable Book
As Leo Tolstoy’s life draws to a close, his tempestuous wife and most cunning disciple are locked in a whirlwind battle for the great man’s soul. Torn between his professed doctrine of poverty and chastity and the reality of his enormous wealth and thirteen children, Tolstoy dramatically flees his home, only to fall ill at a tiny nearby rail station. The famous (and famously troubled) writer believes he is dying alone, unaware that over a hundred newspapermen camp outside awaiting hourly reports on his condition.
Jay Parini moves deftly between a colorful cast of characters to create a stunning portrait of one of the world’s most treasured authors.
NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE
Starring Helen Mirren, Christopher Plummer, & James McAvoy
In 1910, Count Leo Tolstoy, the most famous writer in the world, is caught in the struggle between his devoted wife and an equally devoted acolyte over the master's legacy. Sofya Andreyevna fears that she and the children she has borne Tolstoy will lose all to Vladimir Chertkov and the Tolstoyan movement, which preaches the ideals of poverty, chastity, and pacifism.
As Tolstoy seeks peace in his final days, Valentin Bulgakov is hired to be his secretary and enlisted as a spy by both camps. But Valentin's loyalty is to the great man, who in turn recognizes in the young idealist his own youthful struggle with worldly passions.
Deftly moving among a colorful cast of characters, drawing on the writings of the people on whom they are based, Jay Parini has created a stunning portrait of an enduring genius and a deeply affecting novel.
and#160;The first new biography in twenty years of the literary colossus, spiritual leader, and icon of the nineteenth century "Conveys Tolstoy to me more vividly than any biography I have read."and#8212;A. N. Wilson, Financial Times "Engaging . . . impressive."and#8212;Claire Messud, Telegraph
About the Author
JAY PARINI, a poet and novelist, teaches at Middlebury College in Vermont. His novels include The Apprentice Lover and Benjamin’s Crossing. His fifth volume of poetry was The Art of Subtraction: New and Selected Poems (2005). He has written biographies of John Steinbeck, Robert Frost, and William Faulkner, in addition to such nonfiction works as The Art of Teaching (2005), Why Poetry Matters (2008), and Promised Land: Thirteen Books that Changed America (2008). Parini’s reviews and essays appear frequently in major periodicals, including The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Guardian. He lives in Vermont.
Table of Contents
and#160;Tolstoy Family Tree and#160;xii
and#160;Bers Family Tree and#160;xiv
and#160;Note on Conventions and#160;xv
1 and#160;Ancestors: The Tolstoys and the Volkonskys and#160;11
2 and#160;Aristocratic Childhood and#160;31
3 and#160;Orphanhood and#160;55
4 and#160;Youth and#160;68
5 and#160;Landowner, Gambler, Officer, Writer and#160;83
6 and#160;Literary Duellist and Repentant Nobleman and#160;118
7 and#160;Husband, Beekeeper and Epic Poet and#160;149
8 and#160;Student, Teacher, Father and#160;180
9 and#160;Novelist and#160;214
10 and#160;Pilgrim, Nihilist, Muzhik and#160;251
11 and#160;Sectarian, Anarchist, Holy Fool and#160;294
12 and#160;Elder, Apostate and Tsar and#160;345
and#160;Epilogue: Patriarch of the Bolsheviks and#160;416
and#160;Further Reading in English and#160;498
and#160;Select Bibliography and#160;499
and#160;Illustration Credits and#160;508