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200 × 130 mm
224 pages
40 illustrations
10 Feb 2020
Critical Lives
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Leo Tolstoy Andrei Zorin

When he arrived in Moscow in 1851, a young Leo Tolstoy set himself three immediate aims: to gamble, to marry and to obtain a post. He managed only the first. The writer’s momentous life would be full of forced breaks, abrupt departures and profound contradictions, from the death of his beloved parents and tortuous courtships to a deep spiritual crisis and an abandonment of the social class into which he had been born. He also made several attempts to break up with literature, but each time he returned to writing.

In this original and comprehensive biography, Andrei Zorin skilfully pieces together the life of one of the greatest novelists of all time. He offers both an innovative account of Tolstoy’s deepest feelings, emotions and motives, as reflected in his personal diaries and letters, and a brilliant interpretation of his major works, including the celebrated novels on contemporary Russian society, War and Peace and Anna Karenina, and his significant philosophical writings.

‘I know of no other biography of Tolstoy as succinct, as objective, as readable or as thought-provoking as Andrei Zorin's.’ — Donald Rayfield, Emeritus Professor of Russian and Georgian, Queen Mary University of London

‘After years of intense debate about the status and relevance of biographical knowledge within cultural history, Andrei Zorin's life of Tolstoy marks the arrival of a new genre . . . it inverts the traditional assumption that describing an author's world helps us understand his books. In four densely documented and beautifully written chapters this innovative "literary biography" offers the possibility of an immersion into Russian nineteenth-century culture, with an intensity that transcends what conventional history writing has achieved . . . Zorin has produced a masterpiece where erudition and intellectual elegance intersect.’ — Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Albert Guérard Professor in Literature, Emeritus, Stanford University

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Andrei Zorin is Professor and Chair of Russian at the University of Oxford, UK. He is the author and co-author of many books on Russian literature and culture including On The Periphery of Europe 1762-1825: The Self-Invention of the Russian Elite (2018).

1 An Ambitious Orphan
2 A Married Genius
3 A Lonely Leader
4 A Fugitive Celebrity

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