Leo Tolstoy

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 by Jia Pan

Leo Tolstoy was born in Russia in 1828. He was one of the most prominent authors, philosophers and essayists. He was the fourth child born in his family. His childhood can be concluded as happy and fulfilling. His father, Count Tolstoy, was an amiable, facetious, and light-hearted person. Because of Count Tolstoy’s preference of riding in the fields and forests, Leo retells his childhood memory outing with his siblings in his book (Leo Tolstoy). The family has a astonishing amount of book collection, which encompasses over twenty thousand books in over thirty languages. The early on exposure to knowledge is probably the reason why Tolstoy became such a giant in literature. Tolstoy later attended Kazan University and studied literary works from renowned authors around the world.

Tolstoy began his first literary inquiry as the translation of A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy. Its author Sterne had a profound influence on Tolstoy’s literary style although Tolstoy had denied it. Tolstoy completed his first short story A History of Yesterday in 1851. And the following year, he finished his first long novel Childhood, which established his respectable status in Russian literature.

Tolstoy also mingled his personal life into his literature. In his short novel The Cossacks, the protagonist shares many characteristics with him. Although Tolstoy did not have intimate relationship with many authors, including Turgenev, the greatest Russian author of the period, Tolstoy remained friends with many writers.

Tolstoy remained a close relationship with peasants. He founded a school for peasant children at Yasnaya. Since Tolstoy admired the crude intelligence of peasants, he included peasant lives as a main objective in many of his works. He also helped to carry out the Emancipation reform of 1861. (Leo Tolstoy)

There are two most important landmarks in the life of Tolstoy. The first is his marriage and the other is his conversion. Self-questioning has been bothering Tolstoy since his childhood. Witnessing his father’s death and his grandmother grief tormenting her, Tolstoy began his self-questioning since a little child. His marriage provided him a way to escape from the tormenting self-questioning to a “natural” and less hypocritical state. His jovial and happy marriage life provided the base stone of his brilliant work War and Peace.

Marriage apparently has became one of the most important phases in Tolstoy's life, as he finished his masterpiece War and Peace during the first fifteen years of his married life. He married with Sophie Behrs, who is sixteen years younger than him, and gave birth to twelve children. She serves as a consummate model of an ideal mother and wife. She is very supportive of Tolstoy's writing career as she participates to copy War and Peace word by word for seven times.

In the later years of his life, Tolstoy has become one of the most renowned writers in the world because of War and Peace. But some people are more attracted to his new doctrines, so they form communes throughout Russia to put his theory into practice. The place Tolstoy lived, Yasnaya Polyana, became a holy place where all the pilgrims visited and worshipped him. Unfortunately, his family remained a hostile attitude toward Tolstoy's decision, especially his wife. Tolstoy eventually fell ill in 1901 and had to live in Gaspra and Simeiz, Crimea(Leo Tolstoy). However, his physical illness did not deter him from creating literary masterpieces. Trying to avoid societal forces to irritate his family, Tolstoy decided to move out of Yasnaya with his youngest daughter. During his trip, he caught a cold and died November 20, 1910(Leo Tolstoy).

Tolstoy has written innumerous memorable novels and fictions. His works are characterized as empathizing with real life. This unique characteristic is due to the fact that Tolstoy combines his real life with his fictional world. He has witnessed the Crimean war and actually has participated in it, so he successfully combined his life with the destruction of wars in his books. His most famous work of course is War and Peace, it is characterized by its prodigious length. It included 580 characters, some are actual historical characters, but many are fictional and imaginative. However, it surprised many readers that some of his characters are not real because of his vivid description. Anna Karenina, a novel that Tolstoy considered as his formal first essay, is one of the greatest of his works. Once again, he mingled real life elements with fiction. He imagined himself as the protagonist of the book who saved an adulterous woman.