I am currently reading this work, translated by Cathy Porter, published in London by Alma Books. This paperback edition was published in 2010.

I am finding it more interesting than I expected. You can imagine the dynamics of the Tolstoy household. He is wonderfully creative both in fictional literature and in theology-philosophy-politics. He lives in a world of ideas. In the background, Russia is going through a tumultuous times with many assassination attempts against the Tsar and struggles for and against the social order. Meanwhile they have 13 children. The middle three die in infancy, so there is an older group and a younger group surviving. There is also an estate to run. Tolstoy had all kinds of ideas about holy poverty but was a rich man with many servants. All the practical matters fall to Sophia. She is madly in love with her husband but also despairing of him. His feelings for her fluctuate wildly. They have fierce arguments. Tolstoy becomes famous. Disciples arrive. Sophia finds most of them insufferable. I'm only on Part One. I'll keep you posted.

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David, I have this book! It was a gift from a class I taught in the mid-90's and I have not yet read it, but what you say about it sounds so interesting...I'm currently reading Insomniac City by Bill Hayes who in his 50's met again and fell in love with noted author Oliver Sacks who was in his late 70's. The sparse tone Hayes uses to describe discreet moments of words between these two, their love, runs like a golden thread through the weave of Hayes' description of his love for New York, his adopted city, and New Yorkers. He loves the subways and taxis and spend time describing the people and outrageous moments he experiences there. 

Ah, thanks, Charlene. Yes, I'm enjoying the book - and, i think, a great deal more than I would have done even a few years ago. I can identify with both the main protagonists in certain ways (not others) and can readily see how what each of them finds either sensible or compelling brings them into sharp conflict with the other. It is interesting psychologically, historically and spiritually. I still have a long way to go. It is my current book at bedtime and by the time I get to it I am close to dropping off :-)

always a comfort to read just before sleep, I find. Taking time with a book really honours the author and the characters or figures inside the pages...to say nothing of increasing the pleasure of reading

It would be nice to be able to rad it in Russian, of course. Such a fascinating country with such a tumultuous history. Turbulent people in a turbulent land.

My life partner, Harold's mother was born in Russia so I hear the language, especially when he talks to the cats!
It's consonants string together like stones but somehow the overall sound is one of deep passion...I have learned these people are not Western, in the way of North Americans or Western Europeans, but have a more distant, even exotic understanding of life. 

Yes. A different world. I hope the cat appreciates it :-)

I have now at last completed reading the diary. It is a sad tale. A long marriage riven by conflict from start to finish, gradually getting more intense as time went on until finally she was excluded from his deathbed, he having run away from home in his last months in order to get away from her. There were endless disputes over the copyright to his books and over jealousies in relation to her and his other affections. The children took sides. Children and grandchildren died. Famine came and went. War came. The big story of history makes a backdrop to the more intimate war in the household. It is full of ironies. Tolstoy wanted to give his land and property away to the peasants. Sophia took the view that if he really wanted to disinherit his children he should not have begotten so many of them. In the end the revolution came and the Tolstoy estate - what was left of it - became about the only aristocratic estate that was not turned over to the peasants. After Sophia died it remained a cultural heritage site under the protection of the Soviets. What holds the reader is Sophia's frankness about her own foibles as well as everybody else's.

Three quotes:

“The best, the most painful and the most powerful thing in the world is love and love alone; it guides and determines everything. Love gives life to the artist, the scientist, the philosopher, the woman, the child; love lifts up the soul; gives us strength and the energy for work, inspiration and joy.” p.190

“We women love to act like characters out of a novel; even at times with out husbands; we love sentimental strolls, we love to be emotionally cherished. But one doesn’t expect this from the Tolstoys. So often one feels an outburst of tenderness for one’s husband - but if, God forbid - it is expressed, he recoils with such disgust that one feels mortified and ashamed of one’s feelings. He only cherishes me when his passions are aroused - which alas is not the same!" p.265

Her youngest and favourite child died in 1895. At Christmas 1900 a grandchild (1st son of her 4th child) died in infancy… “But their grief was unspeakable! All the emotional agony I had endured with Vanechka’s death surfaced from the depths of my soul and I was suffering both for myself and for my children, the young parents… [various people arrived] for the funeral. And then once again it was the open pit, the little waxen face surrounded by hyacinths and lilies, the harshness of death and the frantic grief of the mourners. Then news came that Tanya [her second child, newly married, then age 36] had given birth to a dead baby girl. I was stunned. No sooner had I attended Levushka’s funeral than I had to set off again that evening to see Tanya; … It tore my heart to see her so ill and grief-stricken, her husband away and her hopes of being a mother so cruelly dashed… she said to me ‘Looking at my dead baby gave me a hint of the maternal instinct, and I was horrified by its power’” pp. 283-4 


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