Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Last Station: A Novel of Tolstoy's Last Year
The Last Station: A Novel of 
Tolstoy's Last Year 

"It is not an easy thing to alter the trajectory of your life. People have expectations on your behalf. You come to believe them yourself." — Jay Parini

This is a wonderful evocation of Tolstoy's last days, the people surrounding him and the aura created by the event. Parini captures all the excitement and intrigue for here was not just a literary icon but a very wealthy man who, ironically, had no interest in the very wealth that he had amassed. Each chapter in the book is written as if in the first person by six different voices, including Tolstoy himself, Sophia, Vladmir Chertkov (Tolstoy’s companion and promoter of his work) and Tolstoy’s secretary, Valentin Bulgakov. His wife, Sophia, is portrayed showing signs of hysteria and paranoia as she tried to protect her families inheritance from the group of Tolstoyans formed around Vladmir Chertkov, who felt that the great man’s legacy belonged to the world. While it helps to have some familiarity with Tolstoy's earlier years this is still a good read for those who do not. Just as Tolstoy was a writer, larger than life, he becomes, in death, a mythic figure.

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parrish lantern said...

On the Tv over here they've been showing a documentary on Tolstoy & were discussing his last work " Resurrection" I'd not known of it, have you read it, it was described as almost a lost masterpiece.

James said...

I read Resurrection in an old NAL-Mentor paperback edition many years ago. While I do not remember the details, I do remember it was very much a novel of redemption. A product of Tolstoy's final decades after he had turned toward a more spiritual approach to life. A good short introduction to his views at that time in his life would be his short story Master and Man where the landowner dies while saving the life of one of his peasants.