Leo Tolstoy

Other Writers Influenced By Tolstoy
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By Caitlin Ochmanski

The famous Russian writer and moral philosopher Leo Tolstoy made a great impact in the literary world during the later half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. In fact he is heralded as one of the world’s greatest novelists. His writings had such an impact that it was only natural that he should influence not only other authors but the writings of spiritual and political leaders as well.

Tolstoy first achieved fame in Russia, but news of him spread quickly abroad. Critics from western societies praised his works for their “psychological realism and the breadth of (his) approach” (“Leo Tolstoy”).  It was this psychological realism and Tolstoy’s ability to analyze that have had the strongest impact and played the biggest part in helping to shape 20th century literature.

One famous writer who was influenced by the works of Leo Tolstoy was Virginia Woolf. Virginia Woolf was a 20th century English novelist and essayist and is widely regarded as one of the foremost modern literary figures of her time, much like Tolstoy. She greatly enjoyed Russian Literature and she began reading Tolstoy at an early age.

The influence of Tolstoy is perhaps most apparent in her fiction books however, which deal with war and social classes in many instances, much like Tolstoy’s novel “War and Peace”. Wolf once said of Tolstoy that through him modernists were able to “brake away” and develop a news style of literature (Protopopova).

Another author Tolstoy influenced was James Joyce. Joyce was also a forefront writer of the 20th century. Many of his works feature common traits of Tolstoy’s including realism and a focus on everyday life (in 20th century Ireland). In addition, he, like Tolstoy, had issues with religion and eventually renounced his faith. Joyce noted of Tolstoy that “he is never dull, never stupid, never tired, never pedantic, never theatrical! He is head and shoulders over the others” (Barger).

A fellow Russian author that was influenced by Tolstoy was Vladimir Nabokov. Nabokov was a realism writer as well. In all of his writings there is an inherent pattern to be discovered by nature. He was very detailed much like Tolstoy. He was also known as a very harsh critic, so it really is quite a complement to Tolstoy when Nabokov placed him as one of the best fiction writers.

Tolstoy’s influence was great in the literary world. These are only a sample of some of the authors he has influenced. In addition he played a major role in shaping the literary modernism movement. Tolstoy’s influence has not been limited to essays and novels however. He greatly influenced other people too such as Mohandas Gandhi, who in turn influenced others like Martin Luther king Jr. who in turn still inspires others today. Through these influences Tolstoy’s works, ideas, and legacy lives on to influence others.