Happy birthday to one of the most acclaimed classic writers of the world: Leo Tolstoy. The Russian writer wrote numerous novels that have become literary mainstays, such as Anna Karenina, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, and War And Peace. Surely you’ve heard of at least one of them, although you may not have actually read them.
Tolstoy was born in Tula Province, Russia in 1828. In the 1860s, he wrote his most famous novel, which we’ve already mentioned: War And Peace. Initially published serially, later collected into a single volume, spanning the period of 1805 to 1820. Since its publication, it has been regarded as Tolstoy’s finest achievement and a huge high mark of literature in general.
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Tolstoy continued to write fiction throughout the 1880s and 1890s, until his death in 1910. But War And Peace remains his most famous achievement, understandably so. He spent the better of the 1860s toiling over his epic masterpiece. Portions of it were first published in The Russian Messenger, where it was first titled “The Year of 1805.” More chapters were released, until Tolstoy eventually finished in 1868. Both critics and the public were buzzing about the novel’s historical accounts of the Napoleonic Wars, combined with its thoughtful development of realistic yet fictional characters. The novel also uniquely incorporated three long essays satirizing the laws of history. Among the ideas that Tolstoy extols in War and Peace is the belief that the quality and meaning of one’s life is mainly derived from his day-to-day activities.
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After War And Peace, Tolstoy followed it with Anna Karenina, where the first line is among his most famous quotes. It said:
‘All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’
This book was published in installments from 1873 to 1877. The royalties earned from both novels made Tolstoy rich, contributing to his growing status as a beloved author. However, after Anna Karenina, Tolstoy grew depressed and suffered a spiritual crisis. He attempted to find answers in the Russian Orthodox Church but they did not have any answers that satisfied him. He wound up developing his own system of beliefs and expressed them in further books he wrote in the 1880s. However, this cost him to be ousted from the Church and watched by the secret police. This perhaps contributed to his dwindling popularity, with the exception of The Death of Ivan Illyich, which found acclaim and popularity.
Despite this, Tolstoy established himself as a moral and spiritual leader, influencing the likes of Ghandi among others. Also during his later years, Tolstoy reaped the rewards of international acclaim. Yet he still struggled to reconcile his spiritual beliefs with the tensions they created in his home life. His wife not only disagreed with his teachings, she disapproved of his disciples, who regularly visited Tolstoy at the family estate. Their troubled marriage took on an air of notoriety in the press. Anxious to escape his wife’s growing resentment, in October 1910, Tolstoy, his daughter, Aleksandra, and his physician, Dr. Dushan P. Makovitski, embarked on a pilgrimage. Valuing their privacy, they traveled incognito, hoping to dodge the press, to no avail.
He died in November in 1910, where he was buried in the family estate following his passing. He was survived by his wife and his 8 children he had with it. Today, Tolstoy is remembered as a masterpiece of a writer, with a gift for describing a character’s motives and remembering to focus on their everyday actions to describe their overall purpose.
Happy birthday, Tolstoy! Maybe crack open one of his novels and check him out today.
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