Leo Tolstoy

Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy shoeless. Oil on canv...
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Major Works

War and Peace

Anna Karenina (more info and links to follow)

Childhood (more info and links to follow)

The Cossacks

Biography of Tolstoy

Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (September 9, 1828 – November 20, 1910) is considered by many as the world’s greatest ever novelist. Tolstoy’s reputation is built on the reception to his epic War and Peace and the novel Anna Karenina, yet he also wrote a number of shorter fictional works, as well as philosophical works inspired by his religious and political beliefs later in his life.

Lev or Leo Tolstoy (his first name often being rendered as Leo in English, while his surname can al

so appear as Tolstoi), came from a rich aristocratic Russian family. He was the fourth of five children to his parents Count Nikolai Ilyich Tolstoy, a veteran of the Patriotic War of 1812, and Countess Mariya Tolstaya (Volkonskaya). After studying at University, where he did not flourish academically he led the life of a dissolute young man in the two main hubs of Russian aristocratic life: Moscow and St. Petersburg. Here he ran up massive gambling debts, after which he left with his brother for the Caucasus in 1851. Soon after his time in the Caucasus he began writing seriously and completed his first major work, Childhood, which was published in 1852.

Tolstoy spent time in the army and was a participant in the Crimean War from 1854 to 1855, which contributed greatly to the pacifist attitude to armed conflict that he would express throughout his life, and in particular in War and Peace. In 1860-61 he travelled to Europe, where both the politics and the literary art of French writers such as Hugo and Proudhon influenced him.

Tolstoy married Sophia Andreyevna Behrs on 23rd September 1862. Their marriage produced thirteen children, and although they loved each other passionately, their marriage was not happy. Sonya helped Tolstoy with his work, acting as a secretary, proof-reader and business manger. But as his religious and political beliefs became more extreme the marriage came under great strain.

Thanks to Tolstoy’s exulted status as the greatest of Russian writers, he was able to express political views that would normally be harshly repressed in Tsarist Russia during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He espoused non-violent anarchism and resistance to authoritarianism, ideas which were to be taken up by Ghandi and others.

Tolstoy died of pneumonia on at the age of 82, at Astapovo train station.

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