Top Leaderboard, Site wide
Winner 2013 Webby Awards for Best Political Website
Top Banner, Site wide
Apr 23, 2014

 Choose a size
Text Size

The Key to 2014

The Divide

Truthdig Bazaar more items

Arts and Culture

The Life and Times of Mrs. Leo Tolstoy

Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share

Posted on Dec 8, 2009
Sofia Tolstoy

The Countess Tolstoy’s diaries detail the ups and downs of living with a literary legend.

Turns out that being married to Russian literary giant Leo Tolstoy wasn’t always a recipe for a good time. Sure, there was the excitement of helping him realize his loftiest artistic ambitions, but Sofia Tolstoy, wife of 48 years and mother of the author’s 13 children, eventually discovered that she would lose her husband to his religious convictions before losing him for good. It also turns out that Mrs. Tolstoy kept very detailed diaries, which are available for public consumption—and she wasn’t a bad writer herself.  —KA

The Guardian:

Tolstoy was of noble lineage, with a large estate and many celebrated books to his name. He had travelled widely in the west, and gambling and whoring were particular obsessions. Yet he seemed willing, even eager, to settle down with an innocent girl of 19, who eventually bore him 13 children, helped him in his work (she personally copied out War and Peace as well as Anna Karenina many times), and supervised a complex estate.

It was a wild ride for Sofia, but she proved equal to the task. Her husband appreciated her intelligence, and she loved not only him but his reputation. It seemed, to her, a privilege to live in proximity to a man whose fame grew exponentially as he aged. The problem was that Tolstoy shifted gears dramatically in midlife, becoming a religious guru, turning his back on fiction. He evolved into a kind of saint, attracting disciples from around the world (including Gandhi). He shaped his own version of Christianity, discounting its miraculous aspects. Worse, from Sofia’s viewpoint, he threatened to give away all his property, including the copyright to his work, to the Russian people. A psychodrama emerged, with Sofia battling Tolstoy’s disciples for access to his soul.

Read more

New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

By Tenzing, December 10, 2009 at 11:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To pigeon-hole Tolstoy in a “religious guru” niche does Tolstoy’s memory and
influence a bit of a disservice, it seems to me. As the article points out, Tolstoy
opposed both institutionalized religion and the State. It is because of this that he
has been called by many an anarchist (So has Gandhi been called). This was a
label Tolstoy rejected during his lifetime, but the shoe does seem to fit pretty

Report this

By johannes, December 10, 2009 at 11:42 am Link to this comment

To David its not respectfull to make such dénigrer observations, about such great artists.

Report this

By johannes, December 10, 2009 at 10:10 am Link to this comment

I am certain that not one of the commentators has visited the Tolstoy museum, if you do not have tasted the atmosphere of his house and belongings, and spoken with people who still love him and tell you about his books and writings, its hard to come to an just feeling about him, this for all Russian writers, and Russia it self and his people.

Report this

By David, December 9, 2009 at 2:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

She needed a bigger golf club…

Report this

By NYCartist, December 9, 2009 at 8:11 am Link to this comment

Diaries with a forward by Doris Lessing - that’s news.

Report this

By NYCartist, December 9, 2009 at 8:07 am Link to this comment

KA (could we have a whole name, please): “the excitement of helping him achieve his loftiest artistic aims” (paraphrase)—A throwback to sexism’s vicarious satisfaction kind of language?  Ouch. ooooooooooooooooooo

Report this

By radson, December 9, 2009 at 8:07 am Link to this comment

I guess in the end Leo became somewhat like Pierre in the book.

Report this

By dihey, December 9, 2009 at 7:54 am Link to this comment

If there ever was a “giant” fraud it was Leon Tolstoy.

Report this

sign up to get updates

Right 1, Site wide - BlogAds Premium
Right 2, Site wide - Blogads
Join the Liberal Blog Advertising Network
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
Join the Liberal Blog Advertising Network

A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion   Publisher, Zuade Kaufman   Editor, Robert Scheer
© 2014 Truthdig, LLC. All rights reserved.