TOLSTOY'S LETTERS, Vol. I & II by Lev Tolstoy
Kirkus Star

TOLSTOY'S LETTERS, Vol. I & II

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Remarkably, as Professor Christian notes, this is the first representative collection of Tolstoy's letters in English--six hundred selected from the several thousand extant, newly translated, impeccably packaged, and, inevitably, a sprawl. What begins as ""an idle life, rich in impressions"" (1854) turns out to be an armature for genius, folly, marital pain, priggishness, saintliness, naivetÉ, and both stunning shortsightedness and persistent, true vision. 1856 (to a sweetheart): ""Please go for a walk everyday, whatever the weather . . . And wear a corset, and put on your stockings, yourself, and generally make various improvements of that kind in yourself. Don't despair of becoming perfect."" 1865 (to the poet Fet, while writing War and Peace): ""I'm very glad that you love my wife; although I love her less than my novel, still, you know, she is my wife. Someone's coming. Who is it? My wife!"" 1871 (again to Fet): ""I've stopped writing, and will never again write verbose nonsense like War and Peace."" 1872 (to Strakhov, a friend): ""Notice one thing: We are under fire, but not altogether. If we were, life too would be as insecure and worthless as science and literature, but life is resolute and majestic, and goes its own way without bothering about anyone."" 1875 (again to Strakhov): ""There are souls whose only doors lead straight into living rooms."" 1902 (to Tsar Nicholas II): ""You have probably been deceived about the people's love for autocracy and its representative, the Tsar, by the fact that everywhere . . . crowds of people run after you with shouts of 'Hurrah!' Don't believe this is an expression of devotion to you--they are crowds of inquisitive people who would run just the same after any unusual spectacle."" Letters toward the end of his life go out to Sholom Aleichem, Octave Mirabeau, H.G. Wells, G.B. Shaw, Gandhi--Tolstoy the Tolstoyan talking, dispensing abstractions. And always the family letters: pained and clumsy, out of sync and spiteful, hurt and tragicomic. For scholars and initiates, an inexhaustible resource.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 1978
Publisher: Scribners