TOLSTOY AND THE NOVEL by John Bayley

TOLSTOY AND THE NOVEL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Tolstoy had an expansive, sensuous vitality which carried him through his major achievements and then after completing Anna Karenina plunged him into a despondency which resulted in his monkish renunciation of materialism, art, and that ""family happiness"" he so urgently sought. He died in a railway station in 1910, fleeing a disastrous marriage and years of of self-imposed poverty. A genius of aristocratic birth and mystic longings, his divided soul is mirrored in all his works, and anyone not familiar with the oddities of his life will probably have a difficult time reading Professor Bayley's careful, erudite textual analysis. All too often Bayley interweaves biographical references without either adequate explanation or chronological order. Tolstoy was an autodidact, an inspired amateur in aesthetics and philosophy (Schophenhauer was his only real nourishment aside from Christian thinking), and deeply vexed in matters of morality. The picture of his intellectual and artistic development drawn here, while undeniably impressive in its thematic and stylistic insights and comprehensive placing of Tolstoy both within the Russian tradition, from Pushkin to Pasternak, and his influence on the modern novel generally, somehow does not capture in any striking, or particularly pertinent, fashion the intensity, ambiguity, the dreaded sense of false values, the neo-primitive ethic which haunted the man whether at his desk or in the market place. There are many brilliant evaluations: on love, death, history, Tolstoyan ""solipsism"" or ""reality."" But an antiseptic intellectual compression bars a truly spirited discussion.

Publisher: Viking