Leo Tolstoy’s short works, like his novels, show readers his narrative genius, keen observation, and historical acumen—albeit on a smaller scale.
This Norton Critical Edition presents twelve of Tolstoy’s best-known stories, based on the Louise and Aylmer Maude translations (except “Alyosha Gorshok”), which have been revised by the editor for enhanced comprehension and annotated for student readers. The Second Edition newly includes “A Prisoner in the Caucasus,” “Father Sergius,” and “After the Ball,” in addition to Michael Katz’s new translation of “Alyosha Gorshok.” Together these stories represent the best of the author’s short fiction before War and Peace and after Anna Karenina.
“Backgrounds and Sources” includes two Tolstoy memoirs, A History of Yesterday (1851) and The Memoirs of a Madman (1884), as well as entries—expanded in the Second Edition—from Tolstoy’s “Diary for 1855” and selected letters (1858–95) that shed light on the author’s creative process.“Criticism” collects twenty-three essays by Russian and western scholars, six of which are new to this Second Edition. Interpretations focus both on Tolstoy’s language and art and on specific themes and motifs in individual stories. Contributors include John M. Kopper, Gary Saul Morson, N. G. Chernyshevsky, Mikhail Bakhtin, Harsha Ram, John Bayley, Vladimir Nabokov, Ruth Rischin, Margaret Ziolkowski, and Donald Barthelme.A Chronology of Tolstoy’s life and work and an updated Selected Bibliography are also included.
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), a giant of world literature, is the author of many classics, including War and Peace and Anna Karenina.
Michael R. Katz, is C. V. Starr Professor of Russian and East European Studies at Middlebury College. He is the author of The Literary Ballad in Early Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature and Dreams and the Unconscious in Nineteenth-Century Russian Fiction. He has translated and edited the Norton Critical Editions of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground and Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Children. He has also translated Alexander Herzen’s Who Is to Blame?, N. G. Chernyshevsky’s What Is to Be Done?, Dostoevsky’s Devils, Druzhinin’s Polinka Saks, Artsybashev’s Sanin, and Jabotinsky’s The Five.
Count Leo Tolstoy was born in 1828 on the family estate of Yasnaya Polyana, in the Tula province, where he spent most of his early years, together with his several brothers. In 1844 he entered the University of Kazan to read Oriental Languages and later Law, but left before completing a degree. He spent the following years in a round of drinking, gambling and womanizing, until weary of his idle existence he joined an artillery regiment in the Caucasus in 1851.
He took part in the Crimean war and after the defence of Sevastopol wrote The Sevastopol Sketches (1855-6), which established his literary reputation. After leaving the army in 1856 Tolstoy spent some time mixing with the literati in St Petersburg before traveling abroad and then settling at Yasnaya Polyana, where he involved himself in the running of peasant schools and the emancipation of the serfs. His marriage to Sofya Andreyevna Behrs in 1862 marked the beginning of a period of contentment centred around family life; they had thirteen children. Tolstoy managed his vast estates, continued his educational projects, cared for his peasants and wrote both his great novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877).
During the 1870s he underwent a spiritual crisis, the moral and religious ideas that had always dogged him coming to the fore. A Confession (1879–82) marked an outward change in his life and works; he became an extreme rationalist and moralist, and in a series of pamphlets written after 1880 he rejected church and state, indicted the demands of flesh, and denounced private property. His teachings earned him numerous followers in Russia and abroad, and also led finally to his excommunication by the Russian Holy Synod in 1901. In 1910 at the age of eighty-two he fled from home "leaving this worldly life in order to live out my last days in peace and solitude;" he died some days later at the station master's house at Astapovo.