Whenever I am permitted to bask in the light for imagination, I turn to Leo Tolstoy for some fragments of drama and splinters of euphoria.
There is something about his characters even when they strike us as unwholesome or exasperating, or enervated if not perverse.
They make us feel his patience, clarity and meticulous harmony — filled with malevolence. At the bottom, Tolstoy is a writer who has flung his soul to the side of pity. He sees into the holiness and immaculate fragility of the “Russian Soul” in literature.
His genius, breathed into the lives of his character, is never morbid nor disgruntled. Rather, it catches out air mute inferences, faint turnings of the heart — with tendrils thinner than hair that drifts.
His art is dedicated to the definitive portraiture of whole lives.
Each story however, whether an allusion or broken off, is never exhaustive.
In his thrust of shattered civilization (like his War and Peace), his people are often charged with conviction, sometimes with the serious nobility of Tolstoy himself, the best interpreter of an underneath life.
He teaches us, yet Alexandr Solzhenitsyn disagrees with Tolstoy’s contention in War and Peace – that “great men” cannot influence the course of events but at best, can only swim along with it and await a counter – current or the turning of the tide.
Solzhenitsyn holds that leadership is determining in war and uses examples from the tragic campaign to prove it.
He was angry (or so it seems) because of the effect that Tolstoy’s doctrine of love and non-violence had on young men of the war generation. It persuaded them that it was wrong to accept military service.
In Tolstoy’s universe, cowardice in war, is not so damning, i.e., so revealing.
In Tolstoy’s story What Men Lived By, there is this passage. “I know now that people only seem to live when they care only for themselves, and that it is by love for others that they really live. He who had love has God in him, and in God because God is love.”
In Russia, to admire Tolstoy was the thing to do among educated people . He was a count and a great national figure.
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