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Sofia Tolstoy, Agent, Editor, Wife Of The Great Russian Author: 'I Am A Woman!' (PHOTOS)

Posted: 09/28/10 08:23 AM ET

Tolstoy was 34 when he married 18-year-old Sofia Behrs in 1862. A famous writer by then, and master of his family's 4,000-acre estate at Yasnaya Polyana near Moscow and the 3,000 peasants living on it, he had sown his wild oats and was ready to settle down. It was in this year that Sofia started writing her diaries, republished in my new translation, "The Diaries of Sofia Tolstoy," to mark the centenary of his death. A complex woman with an iron constitution and the soul of a poet, she bore him 13 children (five of whom died), took over the running of the estate, and worked as his agent and editor, negotiating with publishers and copying out all his works, tirelessly deciphering the scribble only she could read. It may be that we would have had none of his great novels without her, but it's her candid account of their 48-year marriage that makes her diaries so compelling, and these pictures tell their own story, of their children, the state of his health, their friendships with some of Russia's best-known writers, artists and musicians, and the fierce arguments that would divide them at the end.

"I am a woman!"
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Sofia with her children Tatyana and Sergei in 1866. Tolstoy didn't believe in birth control, and in the first seven years of their marriage she bore him four children. These were times of huge changes for women in Russia, and she too felt the stirrings of change in her. "I don't interest him. He sees me as a doll, merely his wife, not a human being," she wrote. "I am to gratify his pleasure and bear his children. I am a woman!"
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