The ethical quest that began when Tolstoy was a child and that tormented him throughout his younger years now drove him to abandon all else in order to seek the ultimate meaning in life. At first he turned to the Russian Orthodox Church, visiting the Optina-Pustyn monastery in 1877. He found no answers there. When he began reading the Gospels, though, he found the key to his own moral system in Matthew: ”Resist not evil.” In 1879-1880 Tolstoy wrote his A Confession (1884) and his Critique of Dogmatic Theology (1891). From this point on his life was dominated by a burning desire to achieve social justice.
From 1873 to 1877 Tolstoy worked on the second of his masterworks, Anna Karenina (1877), which also created a sensation upon its publication. The concluding section of the novel was written during another of Russia’s seemingly endless wars with Turkey. The country was in patriotic turmoil. M.N. Katkov, editor of the journal in which Anna Karenina had been appearing serially, was afraid to print the final chapters, which contained an attack on war hysteria. Tolstoy, in a fury, took the text away from Katkov, and with the aid of N. Strakhov published a separate edition that enjoyed huge sales. Tolstoy’s family continued to grow, and his royalties made him an extremely rich man.
Though Tolstoy was a masterful stylist, his works are never meant purely for entertainment. Embedded in his novels are lessons, morals, that he strives to impart to the reader. This makes his work, especially War and Peace, part of the tradition of didactic literature, or literature that teaches. Tolstoy was always interested in theories of education. Even in his early years he felt a strong sense of responsibility as a writer, and even before his religious conversion in 1880 he wrote many simple, edifying stories for peasants and less sophisticated readers. He printed his theories in his own education journal, Yasnaya Polyana, which he founded in 1862. Tolstoy’s writing style frequently made use of structural devices that have been associated with education. For example, he used repetition for emphasis, asked questions and then answered them, enumerated features or characteristics of phenomena he was analyzing, and appealed to logic in support of his views. His fictional writings can be seen broadly as instructional art. War and Peace, for instance, teaches about historical development, just as Anna Karenina teaches about the destructive power of passion. In his later fiction, the moral lessons of his works stand in even sharper outline, and his stories become more schematic.
Devastated, Bellow went to Europe on a cultural-diplomacy junket for the State Department. While abroad, he engaged assiduously in what Leader calls “womanizing.” He returned to Bard, in the summer of 1960, and took up with a visiting French professor named Rosette Lamont. The divorce from Sasha went through in June. For a while, Bellow and Sasha had the same lawyer, who was pleased to be representing both parties in the hottest divorce in town, but eventually Bellow was persuaded to retain his own attorney.
In 1886 Tolstoy worked on what is possibly his most powerful story, ”The Death of Ivan Ilyich,” and his drama of peasant life, The Power of Darkness(which could not be produced until 1895). In 1888, when he was sixty years old, his thirteenth child was born. In the same year he finished his sweeping indictment of carnal love, The Kreutzer Sonata.
In War & Peace the marriage of Pierre to Hélène is later contrasted with that of Pierre's later marriage with Natasha (among others) and in Anna Karenina, the novel is in some ways two separate stories of two separate marriages.
Illustrious Russian author, Leo Tolstoy, pondered the survival of the Jews, but also sensed that their existence had to do with a unique purpose: “What is the Jew?…What kind of unique creature is this whom all the rulers of all the nations of the world have disgraced and crushed and expelled and destroyed; persecuted, burned and drowned, and who, despite their anger and their fury, continues to live and to flourish? …The Jew is the symbol of eternity. … He is the one who for so long had guarded the prophetic message and transmitted it to all mankind. A people such as this can never disappear. The Jew is eternal. He is the embodiment of eternity.”
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Russian novelist and moral philosopher Leo Tolstoy was one of the great rebels of all time, a man who during a long and stormy life was at odds with the Church, government, literary tradition, and his own family. His novel War and Peace has been called the greatest novel of all time. Tolstoy’s brooding concern for death made him one of the precursors of existentialism, yet the bustling spirit that animates his novels seems to convey more life than life itself.
Leo (Lev Nikolayevich) Tolstoy was born on August 28, 1828, in the Tula Province of Russia, the youngest of four sons. His mother died when he was two years old, whereupon his father’s distant cousin Tatyana Ergolsky took charge of the children. In 1837 Tolstoy’s father died, and an aunt, Alexandra Osten-Saken, became legal guardian of the children. Her religious fervor was an important early influence on Tolstoy. When she died in 1840, the children were sent to Kazan to live with another sister of their father.
Tolstoy’s border duty on a lonely Cossack outpost consisted of hunting, drinking, sleeping, chasing girls, and occasionally fighting. During the long lulls he first began to write. In 1852 he sent the autobiographical sketch “Childhood” to the leading journal of the day, the Contemporary. Nikolai Nekrasov, its editor, was ecstatic, and when it was published (under Tolstoy’s initials), so was all of Russia. Tolstoy now began The Cossacks (1863), a thinly veiled account of his life in the outpost.
Augie is a street-urchin autodidact. Never taught how to write a proper sentence, he invents a style of his own. He is an epigrammist and a raconteur, La Rochefoucauld in the body of a precocious twelve-year-old, a Huck Finn who has taken too many Great Books courses. With this strange mélange of ornate locutions, Chicago patois, Joycean portmanteaus, and Yiddish cadences, Bellow found himself able to produce page after page of acrobatic verbal stunts: