The book is a brief autobiographical story of the great author's struggle with a mid-life existential crisis of melancholia. It describes the great novelists search for answers to the profound questions: "What will come of my life?" and "What is the meaning of life?", without answers to which life, for him, had become "impossible".
Tolstoy reflects on the arc of his philosophical life till then: His childhood abandonment of his Russian orthodox faith; His mastery of strength, will power, and reason; And how, after he had achieved tremendous financial success and social status, his life became meaningless.
After despairing of his attempts to find answers in science, philosophy, eastern wisdom, and his fellow men of letters, he "confesses" that he found the answer to his trouble in the deep orthodox religious convictions of ordinary citizens. He describes how he subdued his rational skepticism and abhorrence of "superstition within the Christian truths" in order to gain the peace of mind that he needed to furnish his "survival".
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