The greatest of Russian novelists believed that "whatever the artist depicts - saints, robbers, kings, or lackeys - we seek and see only the artist's own soul" The soul that shines through the work of Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy (1828-1910) is a vast and contradictory thing. It generates the narrative floodtides of War and Peace and Anna Karenina and short stories so intimate that we seem to inhabit their characters rather than just observe them. Tolstoy's soul is that of a consummate artist who despises artfulness and seeks to approximate the disorder of life, of a sensualist who aspires to sainthood, of an aristocrat who identifies fiercely with the small and humble.
All the aspects of Tolstoy's work and character are on display in this masterful anthology. The Portable Tolstoy includes a complete short novel, The Kreutzer Sonata; passages from the author's fictional memoirs of his childhood, youth and military life; excerpts from The Cossacks; The short stories "The Wood-Felling,""Master and Man," and "How Much Land Does a Man Need?"; the play"The Power of Darkness"; selections from such philosophic, social and critical writings as "A Confession" and "What Is Art?"; and a chronology, bibliography and cirtical introduction by the renowned scholar John Bayley. The result is a splendid and authoritative volume of work by a writer whose moral vision, narrative powers, and stylistic range all but defy containment.