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Song Without Words: The Photographs and diaries of Countess Sophia Tolstoy

Overview

Through never-before-seen photographs and intriguing personal diaries, this beautiful book provides an intimate glimpse into the lives of Countess Sophia Tolstoy and her husband, Leo Tolstoy—one of the greatest authors of all time—set against the grand and terrifying backdrop of aristocratic Russia on the brink of its demise.

Between 1885 and 1910, Countess Tolstoy made more than a thousand photographs representing her entire world—from artists to aristocrats to peasants to ...

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Overview

Through never-before-seen photographs and intriguing personal diaries, this beautiful book provides an intimate glimpse into the lives of Countess Sophia Tolstoy and her husband, Leo Tolstoy—one of the greatest authors of all time—set against the grand and terrifying backdrop of aristocratic Russia on the brink of its demise.

Between 1885 and 1910, Countess Tolstoy made more than a thousand photographs representing her entire world—from artists to aristocrats to peasants to family, from the Crimea to Moscow to the family estate 100 kilometers to the south. She also kept detailed diaries, which sweep us into fashionable balls and local gossip...magical scenes of winter in Russia...and devastating famine in the countryside. Sophia's works deepen our understanding of the era as well as of this amazing woman, who had thirteen children, battled a troubled marriage, and, though blessed with a creative life of her own, was so devoted to her husband's career that she hand-copied his great works Anna Karenina and War and Peace many times over.

Song Without Words showcases the photographs by theme, with Sophia's writings providing emotional context for many of the images. Commentary by author Leah Bendavid-Val weaves through the book, linking diaries with pictures and placing each in its historical and literary setting.

Autobiographical in nature, yet global in its true scope, Song Without Words brings to light the gifts of a major figure whose previously unknown works enrich our knowledge of literature, photography, and history.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Diaries have long been valuable sources of information about people and their lives. Combining excerpts from the diary of Countess Sophia Tolstoy, wife of Lev Tolstoy, with 120 photographs the countess took of her world between 1885 and 1910, this work documents the couple's lives during a time of great change in Russia. It also presents a look into the psyche of a woman who devoted herself to a man whose values and beliefs were different from her own. Following a foreword by their great-great-grandson, Vladimir I. Tolstoy, Sophia's black-and-white photographs not only document the couple's life together but also illustrate a talent that in other circumstances and times might have earned Sophia success in her own right. The essays by Bendavid-Val (director of photography publishing, National Geographic Bks; Changing Reality: Recent Soviet Photography) complement and elaborate on the diary excerpts and photographs. Recommended for public, academic, and special libraries. [Photographs from the book are showing through December 2007 at the Katzen Arts Center of American University in Washington, DC.-Ed.]
—Karen MacMurray

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426201738
  • Publisher: National Geographic Society
  • Publication date: 9/18/2007
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,441,650
  • Product dimensions: 8.29 (w) x 9.66 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Meet the Author

Leah Bendavid-Val, Director of Photography Publishing for National Geographic Books, is the author of Propaganda & Dreams: Photographing the 1930s in the USSR and the US; Changing Reality: Recent Soviet Photography; National Geographic: The Photographs; and Stories on Paper & Glass. She has curated photography exhibitions for museums worldwide.
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