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annasophia
13-01-2010, 12:00
Leo Tolstoy is widely considered in the west to be the greatest writer of all time and this year sees the release of a film, The Last Station, to mark the centenary of his death. So why is his native Russia lukewarm about the literary genius?

...."For Tolstoy fans, 2010 is set to be a wonderful year. One hundred years after the great Russian novelist fled from his country estate outside Moscow dying three weeks later in a small provincial railway station the world is gearing up to celebrate him. In Germany and the US there are fresh translations of Anna Karenina; in Cuba and Mexico Tolstoy bookfairs; worldwide, a new black- and-white documentary. Dug up from Russia's archives and restored, the original cinema footage shows an elderly Tolstoy playing with his poodles and vaulting energetically on his horse.


One country, however, has so far conspicuously failed to share in this global Tolstoy mania Russia. Rumour has it that Vladimir Putin toured Tolstoy's country estate incognito as a young KGB spy, but so far the Kremlin is not planning any major event to mark the centenary of Tolstoy's death on 20 November. Not only that, but the makers of The Last Station ended up shooting the film not among the birch trees and northern skylines of Tolstoy's Russia, but in the somewhat more genteel surroundings of rustic eastern Germany.

The movie's American director, Michael Hoffman, had intended to film The Last Station in Yasnaya Polyana, or Clear Glade, Tolstoy's pastoral family estate near Tula, 125 miles south of Moscow. "We wanted to do it in Russia, we really did," Andrei Deryabin, the film's co-producer, explains somewhat wistfully. "But there were no decent loos. There wasn't the infrastructure. The hotels were lousy. Nor were there any security guarantees for the actors. In the end, filming in Russia proved far too expensive."

According to Deryabin, there was also a more profound obstacle Russia's surprising indifference to the genius behind War and Peace, Tolstoy's contrapuntal saga set during the years of Napoleon's wars in Europe and his invasion of Russia.

In the west, Tolstoy is generally rated as the greatest literary novelist: last July, Newsweek placed War and Peace at the top of its meta-list of 100 great novels. (Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four snuck in second, with Joyce's Ulysses third.) Critics hail the extraordinary psychology of Tolstoy's characters, and veterans say nobody has written better about battle. And the east, especially Japan, reveres Tolstoy's philosophy. "Across the whole world there is a huge Tolstoy boom. He's esteemed everywhere apart from here [in Russia]," Deryabin admits."

Read entire article here: Leo Tolstoy: the forgotten genius? | Books | The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/jan/06/leo-tolstoy-the-last-station)

Will
13-01-2010, 21:13
He's uncomfortable reading for Patriots, particularly Russian ones, and I would think above all for the present Edinnaya Russia clowns. At least Dostoyevsky went all orthodox and bought into the mother Russia stuff, Tolstoy never suited any of the leaders here, Tsars, Patriarchs, Commissars or whatever it is we have now.
Shame, he's the best they've had

Ian G
14-01-2010, 11:47
I read that article and I think he is really overstating his case- Tolstoy is not a forgotten genius in Russia, and Russians are proud of him. Anna Karenina and War and Peace are two of the top ten greatest novels in history in anybody's book. A lot of the rest of his stuff is less readable.

But I think part of the problem is that Russians are force-fed 'War and Peace' at school. All of it. It is a great novel, but everyone knows our tastes are largely formed by our teenage years and making teenagers read something for an exam is going to put at least half of them off it for life.

Another thing is humour. Personally I think that the greatest thing in Russian literature is its black humour- Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Chekhov, Bulgakov and a host of other Soviet writers such as Voinovich : they all wrote about the absurdity of bureaucracy, Russia's obsession with status, pretentious small town society, etc. They all have black humour in spades. But not Tolstoy.

(Solzhenitsyn is another serious writer who takes himself seriously. A great writer, who also wrote a lot of unreadable stuff. Is there anything funny in his work? Dostoyevsky also went through prison camp and exile- and his books have a great balance of comedy and tragedy).

I am not Russian, so maybe I have totally missed the point. Please feel free to correct me. Did reading Tolstoy at school make you fall in love with him for life? And is he really a comic genius, - maybe I just didn't see the joke?

tvadim133
14-01-2010, 12:58
You are absolutelu right, to my mind. I liked Tolstoy and had read War and Peace before school and liked it very much, but school prevents sometimes for geting pleasure out of real literature.

Tolstoy is not easy to read but is not forgotten at all in Russia.

I think, that the quantity of information in modern life is huge + there are a lot of different choices now including literature.

I prefer now to read new books published from curiosity then to re-read books of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsly, Chekhov, Ostrovsky (though I have re-read Bulgakov's once again this year) and then will come back to Cehkhov and Leskov first of all.

There are times when Tolstoy and Dostoyevsly required by readers, there are times when Kastaneda is. By times I do not mean only the year on the calendar, but ages of people first of all.

annasophia
14-01-2010, 15:09
My favorite Tolstoy are his short stories. Absolutely riveting and masterful. I only regret that I have read them only in translation, I can't even imagine how much more powerful they must be in his native language.

As a lifelong Tolstoy lover, I love him for his rich writing--not his politics. Such a shame the Russians can't do the same.....

I made the pilgrimage to Yasnaya Polyana two years ago. It was a glorious Russian summer day with puffy clouds above and numerous wedding promenades passing up the birch-lined lane. We walked the property and at the end of a trail in the woods was his burial place. I expected a large monument with dedications to his greatness....and there was nothing but a grassy mound. I was gobsmacked. Tolstoy's burial place is green grassy hill without epitaph, in a small glade in the woods. I know he will be eternally happy in such a place.

I took this picture. The great Leo Tolstoy now lives here. It is most fitting.

robertmf
14-01-2010, 17:44
You are absolutelu right, to my mind. I liked Tolstoy and had read War and Peace before school and liked it very much, but school prevents sometimes for geting pleasure out of real literature.

There are times when Tolstoy and Dostoyevsly required by readers, there are times when Kastaneda is. By times I do not mean only the year on the calendar, but ages of people first of all.

19th Century Russian Lit. (in translation) is a standard 2nd or 3d year course offered at larger US colleges/unis. Excellent. Probably the best period of literature. Myself, I include Solzhenitsyn in with the 'classic authors'.

tvadim133
14-01-2010, 19:07
I think, in General the second part of the 19th and the beginig of the 20ths was the best for literature, no matter Russian, French and so on.

Though I would agree that there were more famous russian writers, though I like French more and more (just my taste).

As for Tolstoy, his stories are really great.

Polyana
25-01-2010, 01:11
forgotten? no way!! who told you this?