Friday, April 03, 2020

Reading Tolstoy, reading about Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy tells a story to his grandchildren Sonya and Ilya in 1909 in Kryokshino, Moscow province. According to Tatiana Tolstoy (Anni con mio padre, Garzanti, 1978) the story is about a boy who enters a garden and eats cucumbers, each one bigger and bigger. Photo: Vladimir Chertkov. From: Толстой Лев Николаевич. Собрание сочинений / Электронное издание. - ИДДК, 2001. Photo and data from Wikipedia.

Leo Tolstoy tells a story to his grandchildren Sonya and Ilya in 1909 in Kryokshino, Moscow province. According to Tatiana Tolstoy (Anni con mio padre, Garzanti, 1978) the story is about a boy who enters a garden and eats cucumbers, each one bigger and bigger. Photo: Vladimir Chertkov. From: [extinct]. Photo and data from Wikipedia.

During the corona lockdown I have been reading Leo Tolstoy, also works that I did not know before. It's all free online in many languages. I think Tolstoy would have embraced the Internet.

Leo Tolstoy (1892): Luonnosta ja elämästä. Satuja ja kertomuksia lapsille [About Nature and Life. Fairy-Tales and Stories for Children]. Porvoo: WSOY 1892. A selection from Tolstoy's Russkaya kniga dlya cheniya collections (1875). – Web: Projekti Lönnrot n:o 951
    Leo Tolstoy (2008): Kuinka hanhi jaetaan. Satua ja totta [How To Share a Duck. Fairy-Tales and True Stories]. Ed. and Finnish trans. Martti Anhava. Helsinki: Otava. A selection from Tolstoy's Russkaya kniga dlya cheniya collections (1875).
    A special talent of Tolstoy's was his ability to write for children – both original stories and adapted ones. He wrote fiction and non-fiction with equal flair. In his novels animals and trees are almost characters in their own right: Vronsky's mare Frou-Frou in Anna Karenina, the ancient oak at Bald Hills on the Bolkonsky country estate in War and Peace. In the stories for children his fauna expands from elephants to silkworms and his flora opens to an entire series about trees, among others. He even widens his field to the non-organic in stories about dew, fog, wind and magnetism. The suite of eight stories about his hunting dogs Burka and Milton has also been published as a separate volume.

"God Sees the Truth, But Waits" ("Бог правду видит, да не скоро скажет", 1872). Stephen King's novella "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" (1982) was inspired by this Tolstoy tale about an innocent man framed for murder and sentenced to hard labour in Siberia. Online: Project Gutenberg. The Literature Network.
"The Prisoner in the Caucasus" ("Кавказский пленник", 1872). One of the most beloved stories written by Tolstoy for his ABC book, still a perennial favourite for schoolchildren. One of Tolstoy's memories from his service in the Caucasian War, distinguished by a sense of mutual respect between Chechens and Russians.
"What Men Live By" ("Чем люди живы", 1881). A haunting mystery play written as a short story. I find in it an affinity with the saga of Philemon and Baucis (Ovid's Metamorphoses, VIII). A film adaptation: Wilhelm Dieterle's first film as a director, Der Mensch am Wege (1923) with himself as Archangel Michael.
"Where Love Is, God Is" ("Где любовь, там и бог", 1885). A reworking of Ruben Sailers's Vater Martin, the story of a cobbler who loses everything and discovers everything. The story had come to Tolstoy's knowledge without a credited source, and he apologized for the recycling when he found out about the author. He made the story his own anyway.
What Then We Must Do? / What To Do? / What Is To Be Done? (Так что же нам делать?, 1886). A full-length pamphlet, a classic exposé on urban poverty in Moscow, and a key document of Tolstoy's awakening to the social reality in Imperial Russia. The Aylmer Maude translation is available online. In Finnish: Mitä meidän siis on tekeminen?, translated by K. W. Järnefelt, Helsinki: Otava, 1908. There are several editions in Project Gutenberg.
"How Much Land Does a Man Need?" ("Много ли человеку земли нужно", 1886). For James Joyce "the greatest story that the literature of the world knows" and a favourite of Ludwig Wittgenstein's. Stefan Zweig compared it with the stories of the Old Testament. A classic story about greed. How much land does a man need? Six feet above his head. Hans-Jürgen Syberberg filmed it as Scarabea. The title of the story has become a winged word, ἔπεα πτερόεντα.
"Croesus and Fate" ("Крез и судьба", 1886). Tolstoy retelling of the opening of Herodotus' Histories: the tale of Croesus, Solon and Cyrus.
"Kholstomer" ("Холстомер", 1888). Told largely in flashback, much of it a first-person narrative of a horse made into a gelding, his story compared with that of a land-owner who is being weighed and found wanting. I am reminded of Robert Bresson's Balthazar.
"Walk in the Light While There is Light" ("Ходите в свете, пока есть свет", 1893). A tale of the Early Christians in the Roman Empire from the period of the Christian persecutions after Nero, the tale of Julius torn between the Roman and the Christian ways. Much of it is an intelligent dialogue for an against Christianity. Could this tale have influenced Henryk Sienkiewicz's Quo vadis (1895–1896)? King James: John 12:35 "Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth." Johannes 12:35 Jeesus sanoi heille: »Vielä hetken aikaa valo on teidän keskellänne. Kulkekaa niin kauan kuin teillä on valo, ettei pimeys saisi teitä valtaansa. Joka kulkee pimeässä, ei tiedä, minne on menossa. 36 Niin kauan kuin teillä on valo, uskokaa valoon, jotta teistä tulisi valon lapsia
"Divine and Human, Or, Three More Deaths" ("Божеское и человеческое", 1906). A sequel, written decades after the original story "Three Deaths", now focuses on political and religious persecution in Russia. This story inspired Paolo and Vittorio Taviani in their modern adaptation San Michele aveva un gallo (1973). In Finnish in the collection Jumalallista ja inhimillistä eli vielä kolme kuolemaa (in Finnish by K. Suomalainen, Porvoo : WSOY, 1907).
"I Can't Be Silent!" ("Не могу молчать!", 1908). One of Tolstoy's most famous declarations: against the capital punishment inflicted on rebellious peasants in mass hangings (thousands were executed). In the final paragraph he also condemns the Russian Empire's actions against Finns.

Leo Tolstoy (1928–1958): Polnoye sobraniye sochinenii L. N. Tolstogo v 90 tomah [The Complete Works of L. N. Tolstoy in 90 Volumes]. Moscow: Gosudarstvennoye izdatelstvo ”Hudozhestvennaya literatura”, 1928–1958. Web: – I cannot read Russian, but this resource is a goldmine, and one can get an overview of the scope of Tolstoy's interests and achievements. In the hosting homepage there are also photographs, paintings and films.

Aylmer Maude (1908): The Life of Tolstoy. First Fifty Years. London: Archibald Constable and Co., Ltd.
    Aylmer Maude (1910): The Life of Tolstoy. Later Years. London: Constable and Company Limited.
    A. N. Wilson (1988) : Tolstoy : A Biography. London: Hamish Hamilton.
    The Aylmer Maude biography, totalling over a thousand pages, is an invaluable first hand source written by Tolstoy's friend, translator and publisher. It was published during Tolstoy's lifetime: the preface of the second volume is signed in August 1910, and Tolstoy died in November 1910. It is an authorized work fact-checked by Countess Sophia Andreyevna Tolstaya. Maude gives a honest and critical acccount of Tolstoyanism. A. N. Wilson's book is a good overview. On second reading, he seems slightly condescending. I think both Maude and Wilson have a good instinct about the truth about the Tolstoy family. It's all true, life is complex, we can never know everything, and it is none of our business.

Valérie Pozner (2005), ed.: Tolstoï et le cinéma. Cahiers Léon Tolstoï 16. Paris: Institut d’Études Slaves.
    Anna Kovalova (2018): ”Anna Karenina (1914) : Reconstructing and Interpreting a Lost Russian Film". Film History, Volume 30.2, pp. 35–78.
    The book edited by Valérie Pozner gives a wonderful Tolstoy filmography and a set of in-depth excursions, rewardingly on the two Soviet film adaptations of The Cossacks by Pozner herself. Anna Kovalova performs a miraculous job of conjuring a virtual reconstruction of the lost first feature length film adaptation of Anna Karenina of which only fragments remain.

Georg Henrik von Wright (1955): Tanke och förkunnelse [Thought and Sermon]. Helsingfors: Söderström. Includes four essays on Tolstoy, first published in Nya Argus 1952–1954, in Finnish Jussi Aro in Ajatus ja julistus, Porvoo – Helsinki: WSOY, 1961. Republished in Tieto ja ymmärrys, Helsinki: Otava, 1999.
    Harold Bloom (1994): The Western Canon. New York: Harcourt Brace. 14. Chapter ”Tolstoy and Heroism”.
    G. H. von Wright's essays on Tolstoy and Dostoevsky have a classical status in Swedish and Finnish. He brings his full philosophical weight into them. Wright does not seem to have understood what Tolstoy means when he says that all men are created equal. Harold Bloom's stunning essay on Hadji Murat builds on Viktor Shklovsky's insight in defamiliarization (остранение): "This technique of strangeness, combined with Tolstoy's tonality, results in the reader's happy conviction that Tolstoy enables him to see everything as if for the first time, while also giving him the sense that he has seen everything already. To be both estranged and at home seems unlikely, but that is Tolstoy's all but unique atmosphere." Then Bloom remarks that being at once uncanny and natural is a feature in all of the highest fictions. In them those antithetical attributes are fused.

Leo Tolstoin 'Luonnosta ja elämästä' on Projekti Lönnrotin julkaisu n:o 951. E-kirjan ovat tuottaneet Tapio Riikonen ja Projekti Lönnrot.
Satuja ja kertomuksia lapsille
Werner Söderström, Porvoo, 1892.


 Kaste ruohon lehdellä.
 Shat ja Don.
 Karhu kuormalla.
 Haukka ja jänis.
 Miten sudet opettavat poikiaan.
 Leijona ja koira.
 Talonpojan kertomus siitä, minkä vuoksi hän rakasti vanhempata veljeänsä.
 Pietari ensimäinen ja talonpoika.
 Raivostunut koira.
 Kaksi hevosta.
 Tasan jaettu perintö.
 1000 kultarahaa.
 Vasikka jäällä.
 Lehmä ja vuohi.
 Kuningas ja haukka.
 Jänis ja sen viholliset.
 Vanha hevonen.
 Keisarinna Si-lin-tsi.
 Tätin kertomus kesystä varpusesta.
 Vanha poppeli.
 Tammi ja pähkinäpuu.
 Rikkaus Jumalalta.
 Sokea ja maito.
 Tunto ja näkö.
 Haistin aisti.
 Erään upseerin kertomuksia Kaukaasiasta:
   Milton ja Pulkka.
   Pulkka ja susi.
   Mitä Pulkalle tapahtui Pjätigorskissa.
   Pulkan ja Miltonin loppu.
 Halu pahempi kuin pakko.
 Pikku tyttö ja hänen sienensä.

Ukko ja kurkut
Kaksi toverusta
Susi ja muori
Mihin vesi merestä joutuu?
Vetehinen ja helmi
Visiiri Abdul
Mistä tuuli tulee?
Vauhdista voimaa
Leijona, susi ja kettu
Kiittämättömyys on maailman palkka
Miksi ikkunat huurtuvat ja mistä kaste tulee?
Apina ja pähkinät
Aasi ja hevonen
Keisari ja paita
Jää, vesi ja höyry
Tädin kertomus siitä, miten hän opetteli ompelemaan
Ukko ja kuolema
Hyttynen ja leijona
Sokea ja maito
Tunto ja näkö
Piispa ja rosvo
Vanha poppeli
Oppinut poika
Miten puut kulkevat
Veljekset ja kulta
Aurinko ja lämpö
Miten talonpoika hanhet jakoi

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