Tolstoy and His Wife
$2.75 By NORTON
ONE morning thirty-five years ago. the great Leo Tolstoy, aged eighty-two, stealthily left his beloved Yasnava Polyana and his wife to seek peace and solitude in some hidden corner of Russia or abroad. A few days later he died at a little railway station under the full glare of the international publicity he sought to avoid.
Since that time Tolstoy’s wife, several of his children, and many disciples and critics have debated in print the reasons for this strange and final action of this famous author and thinker. Tolstoy and His Wife, written in 1928 in Paris by Tikhon Polner, and now excellently translated into English by Nicholas Wreden, attempts to throw new light on this puzzling record. It is distinguished from many treatments of the subject by its admirable objectivity and by the author’s desire to allow Tolstoy and his wife to speak for themselves through their diaries and letters.
The quarrel between husband and wife was only one of the many factors that induced Tolstoy to leave home. Although these other factors are touched upon here and there in the book, they are never pulled together so that the reader has a complete case history of Tolstoy’s mental and emotional state on the eve of His flight: the announced theme of the book serves merely to introduce much unrelated matter concerning Tolstoy’s life and works. Actually the situation that brought about his escape was created by a complex series of material circumstances, psychological elements, rational speculation, and moral urges that dominated his whole existence. Clearly the subject calls for extensive, specialized treatment. Instead the author has written a brief and interesting biographical sketch, but one that is seriously outdated because of the vast amount of fresh material on Tolstoy’s life which has become available since 1928.
ERNEST J. SIMMONS