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Showing posts from November, 2010

Tolstoy: A Russian Life by Rosamund Bartlett – review

The state of Tolstoy's health was closely monitored by the press during the final phase of his life. Years before his death in 1910, people worried about what it would mean. 'I dread Tolstoy's death', Chekhov wrote in a letter in 1900 – partly, he explained, because he loved the man, partly because he admired his beliefs (without sharing them) and partly because Tolstoy's immense authority seemed to justify 'all the hopes and aspirations invested in literature'. While Tolstoy lived, Chekhov said, 'crude, embittered vainglory' was kept in the outer darkness; 'without him the literary world would be a flock without a shepherd, or a hopeless mess.' The symbolist poet Aleksandr Blok, writing in 1908, went further: 'everything is still straightforward and not fearfully relativistic so long as Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy is alive … The morning is still dewy, fresh, unfrightening, the vampires are drowsing, and thank God, Tolstoy walks … And if th…