Today, on October 28, exactly 100 years ago, Leo Tolstoy disappeared in the middle of the night.
He was found two days later in a monastery; his flight was the culmination of his long struggle of living with wealth and family. He had set out to finally become an ascetic.
He died on November 20th at the remote Astapovo railroad station.
The way Tolstoy died was just the final punctuation on a fascinating life. And somewhere along the way, he wrote some of the most enduring works in literary history.
But to better understand the writing, you must better understand the man. Here are six must-read Tolstoy books, covering this crucial period.
Have any we missed? Have any personal stories about your experience with his work that you'd like to share? Let us know!
THE definitive, unadulterated Leo Tolstoy biography. A 900-page portrait of the man's entire life.
An alternative (or companion) to Troyat's biography. The scope is broader than just Tolstoy's life, including literary and historical context, as well as a study of the religious and psychological themes that pervaded his work. The narrative voice is also decidedly more opinionated.
This recently-released distillation of Sofia's 57-year journal has already garnered strong reviews. Her involvement in her husband's work--including the transcriptions and her arguments--as well as her turbulent personal life, now have the benefit of a first-hand account.
This book specifically covers the itinerant last days of Tolstoy, which have since become legendary. It follows his disappearances and the subsequent searches for him.
A biographical novel on the same subject as Nickell's book. It was also adapted into a film in 2009 starring Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren.
For the serious Russian literature nut. It requires a strong familiarity with the oeuvre of both writers, but those willing to put in the time will find this criticism very worthwhile.