Happy 180th Birthday Leo Tolstoy

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on September 9, 2008 0 Comments

Back to http://www.bartelby.com/ this morning to look something up (no I do not own stock). Today’s birthday is Leo Tolstoy. Wow, two days in a row they have artists I really like. Here is a bit about him. Yes I am being a little lazy here.

Leo Tolstoy, or Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (September 9 [O.S. August 28] 1828 – November 20 [O.S. November 7] 1910) (Russian: ??? ??????????? ????????) was a Russian writer widely regarded as one of the greatest of all novelists. His masterpieces War and Peace and Anna Karenina stand, in their scope, breadth and vivid depiction of 19th-century Russian life, at the very peak of realist fiction.

Tolstoy’s further talents as essayist, dramatist and educational reformer made him the most influential member of the aristocratic Tolstoy family. His literal interpretation of the ethical teachings of Jesus, centering on the Sermon on the Mount, caused him in later life to become a fervent Christian anarchist and pacifist. His ideas on nonviolent resistance, expressed in such works as The Kingdom of God is Within You, were to have a profound impact on such pivotal twentieth-century figures as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.


Tolstoy’s contemporaries paid him lofty tributes: Fyodor Dostoyevsky thought him the greatest of all living writers and Gustave Flaubert, on reading War and Peace for the first time in translation, compared him to Shakespeare and gushed: “What an artist and what a psychologist!”. Ivan Turgenev called Tolstoy a “great writer of the Russian land” and on his deathbed implored Tolstoy not to abandon literature. Anton Chekhov, who often visited Tolstoy at his country estate, wrote: “When literature possesses a Tolstoy, it is easy and pleasant to be a writer; even when you know you have achieved nothing yourself and are still achieving nothing, this is not as terrible as it might otherwise be, because Tolstoy achieves for everyone. What he does serves to justify all the hopes and aspirations invested in literature.”

Later critics and novelists continue to bear testaments to his art: Virginia Woolf went on to declare him “greatest of all novelists”, and James Joyce, defending him from criticism, noted: “He is never dull, never stupid, never tired, never pedantic, never theatrical”. Thomas Mann wrote of his seemingly guileless artistry – “Seldom did art work so much like nature” – sentiments shared in part by many others, including Marcel Proust and William Faulkner. Vladimir Nabokov, himself a Russian and an infamously harsh critic, placed him above all other Russian fiction writers, even Gogol, and equalled him with Pushkin among Russian writers.


Honestly it would be hard to write about him in the space constraints of the average Gather reader. He was prolific and amazing. Of his two best known novels my favorite would be Anna Karenina because it is so sad and moving. I also own several movie adaptations of it. I started reading him in AP English and never stopped.

The quote for today is:

The vocation of every man and woman is to serve other people.
Leo Tolstoy

This is a sentiment I subscribe to 100%. When you see suffering you do what you can do, all that you can do, to ease that suffering. Life without compassion, forgiveness and love for others is meaningless. To Leo Tolstoy,  Happy Birthday!

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People say I'm crazy doing what I'm doingWell they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruinWhen I say that I'm o.k. well they look at me kind of strangeSurely you're not happy now you no longer play the game People say I'm l

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