Russian writer Leo Tolstoy’s writings that are a must-read

Challenging the societal norms yet setting his own charts, Tolstoy is a maverick

Russian author Leo Tolstoy was a master of realistic fiction and one of the world’s greatest novelists. Tolstoy first achieved literary acclaim in his 20s with his semi-autobiographical trilogy, Childhood, Boyhood and Youth; and Sevastopol Sketches are based upon his experiences in the Crimean War. One of the giants of Russian literature, Tolstoy’s later best-known work includes War and Peace, Anna Karenina, and other novellas such as Hadji Murad and Family Happiness. Tolstoy continued to write fiction throughout the 1880s and 1890s; and one of his most successful later works was The Death of Ivan Ilyich. He also wrote plays and numerous philosophical essays.

Anna Karenina
This 1887 novel is Leo Tolstoy’s greatest novel ever written. This masterpiece paints a glaringly realistic picture of contemporary Russian society. Author’s first self-proclaimed novel, it tells the story of a woman from Russian society who trapped by societal conventions eventually leaves her loveless marriage for illicit love, leading the story towards a tragic consequence. Another Russian literature, Fyodor Dostoyevsky described this novel as a ‘flawless work of art.

War and Peace
This 1869 novel emerged from the tragedy that involved all mankind during Russia’s struggle with Napoleon. This daunting novel follows the lives of a network of aristocratic Russian families at the time of Napoleon’s invasion. Over 1,000 pages and with 580 historical and fictional characters, War and Peace is an affirmation of life itself. This story is about everything where people find their happiness, greatness, grief, and humiliation.

The Kreutzer Sonata
This 1889 controversial and polemic novella was censored by the Russian authorities after its publication. The reason for its censorship was the detailed description of the main character Pozdnyshev’s increasing jealousy and his paranoia about his wife and her relationship with her music partner. This is in fact, the author’s take on the hypocrisy of 19th-century marital conventions.

The Death of Ivan Ilyich
This 1886 novel talking about death is an artistic culmination of a nine-year professional hiatus and a time of profound spiritual crisis in Tolstoy’s personal life. The theme of dying in Tolstoy’s celebrated novella is treated with sensitivity as the high court judge and protagonist Ilyich confront for the first time. The narration goes on to explore philosophy.

This late 19th-century novel is Tolstoy’s last major novel before his death in 1910. Right from the complex relationship with the protagonist and his relentless attempts at redemption and forgiveness, this 1899 novel narrates Dmitri Ivanovich Nekhlyudov’s efforts at redemption after living a life of sin. It explores the economic philosophy of Georgism, at the same time exposes the hypocrisy of the establishment.

A few other novels are Sevastopol Sketches and A Confession.

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