Who is Tolstoy

So having read my first Russian lit novel evhar (!) I thought I would do a lil' websearch on the man of the hour - Leo Tolstoy.  I wanted to understand a bit more Anna K. than what I was getting.  If you've been reading my multiple updates on the beast, you might recall that I've been lukewarm with Anna as a character, and having heard some rumors about Tolstoy and how/why he created her, I wanted to delve deeper.

HOWEVER, it being the interweb, my research is not complete.  I mean, there's only so many bits and pieces you can gather and sew together when relying on Wikipedia/PBS/Oprah!! et al.  I can tell you though, that what I have read has piqued my interest enough in this man that I'm dying to read an autobiography. (1)

Check out this curious man and how much art imitates life imitates art!

Mr. Tolstoy was QUITE the playboy in his youth.  In fact, his journals claim that he lost the big V at 14 and would frequent the beds of parlor maids.  He was a drunk and a gambler.  (Oblonsky anyone?)  He lost his family fortune and gained a handful of VDs.  Perhaps his most oh-no-he-didn't moment was when he had an affair with a peasant and said MARRIED peasant ending up birthing his illegitimate child. 

EVIDENTLY, the whole Levin and Kitty love story in Anna Karenina is loosely based off of his courtship with his wife, Sonya.  For example: Leo initially met Sonya when she was a child and fell for her.  There's, like, a fifteen year gap?  Finally when Sonya became of age, he popped the question, and disbelieving her answer, they married a week later.  Oh yeah, and he asked (made) Sonya read his journals detailing his deviant behaviors much like our boy Levin.  Aaaalso, the whole day of the ceremony scene in Anna Karenina TOTALLY similar.  Our boy Leo even had the missing shirt moment.

Love for Tolstoy those first twenty years were tralalalala happy tales.  Both Leo and Sonya kept a journal and would write EVERY FREAKIN' EMOTION that came upon them and then shared it relentlessly with each other.  Fights included.  Sonya helped Leo with War and Peace and his other writings.  Pretty awesome....except well, there were some issues in the bedroom.  It seemed that Sonya was having a child every other year and she was all "enough enough, another baby takes away from meeeee!".  And, Tolstoy was a very sexual man.  I mean, really.  I'm dying to get a hold of his earlier journals.  The ones that Sonya read.  Does that make me a creeper?

Now, halfway through the marriage, and whilst writing Anna Karenina, Tolstoy went through a rebirth.  Like a Christian rebirth, except he rather thought of himself as a religious leader (this is me being slightly over-dramatic and assumptive) because he had disciples.  True story there.  I read that in many places.  These men would essentially sit at his feet and listen to him rant about his beliefs.  Beliefs, which shifted quite drastically from his earlier ones.  You know, like: comfort - bad; art - bad; sex - bad; opulence - bad.  This did not sit well with Sonya.  At. All.  Tolstoy also began writing religious tracts.  THAT did not sit well with the church.  At. All.  In 1901 the Russian Orthodox Church pretty much kicked him to the curb.

Thus, they fought.  A lot.  And he was all like, "I hate you you're an awful wretched woman" and she was all like, "I'm going to kill myself, why are you doing this to me." And it doesn't get better.

The final straw (if there was one) was when Tolstoy wrote "Kreutzer Sonata" (which is a Beethoven piece).  Immediately Sonya knew he was writing about her.  Essentially the story is about a husband who hates his wife sooooo much he kills her.  (BTW you can read the short story here.  I know I plan on it!)  Immediately upon it's publication it was banned in Russia (around 1889).  Aaaand, evidently there was mad crazy attempts to prohibit it in the US as well.  Dear ole' Teddy Roosevelt called Tolstoy a "sexual and moral pervert". 

But back to Leo and Sonya, in his dying moment, he fled from the house shouting LEAVE ME ALONE and passed out at the train station.  Wherein the train conductor took him to his house and family came because he was on his DEATH BED but Sonya was told "no you can't be here" and he died.  Without her saying adieu.  Worse yet?  When poor Sonya died two years later, she wanted to be buried next to Leo on their home ground.  *shakes head* Nope.  Not for her.  They buried her two miles away!!

Seriously.  What the what?!  Totally makes my life look simple and uninvolved.

(1)  I'm not very good at researching autobiographies and determining if their the most legit in the field.  Thoughts?  Suggestions?


  1. Ooops. Forgot to post the short story link. It's here:


  2. He did live an interesting live. I'm not sure of any biographies but I know the movie The Last Station was based on a novel based on his life

  3. Just catching up! So I love AK and W&P, but I think Tolstoy is such a tool. lol I read the most recent bio of him, by Rosamund Barlett, last year; here's my post: http://astripedarmchair.wordpress.com/2011/11/21/tolstoy-by-rosamund-bartlett-thoughts/

    I think it's a good place to begin, considering all of the direct quotes from Tolstoy's autobio material!


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