The History of Literature #147 – Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy

When asked to name the three greatest novels ever written, William Faulkner replied, “Anna Karenina, Anna Karenina, Anna Karenina.” Nabokov said, “When you are reading Turgenev, you know you are reading Turgenev. When you read Tolstoy, you are reading because you just cannot stop.”  And finally, there’s this compliment from author Isaac Babel: “If the world could write itself,” he said, “it would write like Tolstoy.”

But who was Leo Tolstoy? How did he become the person who could write War and Peace and Anna Karenina, two of the pinnacles of the novel form – and two of the greatest achievements in the history of human civilization? Why did he stop writing novels, and what did he do with the rest of his life?

In this episode, host Jacke Wilson takes a look at the life and works of Count Leo Tolstoy, one of the most fascinating and revered figures in all of literature.

Links and Other Treats:

More of a Chekhov person? You might like Episode 63, where author Charles Baxter talks about how important Chekhov has been to him.

For a look at Anna Karenina’s “French cousin,” check out Episode 79 – Music That Melts the Stars – Madame Bovary.

Love the Russians? Listen to more in Episode 130 on the great poet Anna Akhmatova and her surprising affair with sculptor Amedeo Modigliani.

Why did Tolstoy hate Shakespeare? Learn more in Episode 104 – King Lear.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature. Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC.

FREE GIFTS! The gift-giving continues! This month, we’re giving away a copy of Nabokov’s Lectures on Russian Literature and an Amazon.com gift certificate for the book of your choice. Sign up at patreon.com/literature to be eligible to win. Good luck!

It’s the Jacke Wilson Show! Episode 1.1 – The Halloween Episode

jackewilsonshowimage

Here we go! Episode 1 of THE JACKE WILSON SHOW, an effort that has been seriously hindered by my complete lack of any knowledge about how any of this works. I had a lot of fun! And it’s yet another disaster! Ah well. Someone needs to take these tools away from me. (Or not! Who am I, Laura Miller, angry at the barbarians at the gate? Even the plebes deserve a few toys, don’t they? And a voice? They get to have their say, don’t they? Don’t they?)

Ahem.

Readers, I could use your help! Like I said, I have no idea how any of this works. Take a listen, and let me know what you think! Does it sound okay on your player? In your headphones? Honestly, I did my best. I hope you enjoy it!

Download the mp3 file: The Jacke Wilson Show 1.1 – The Halloween Episode.

Show Notes:

It’s the JACKE WILSON SHOW!

On this week’s show: lusty lizards in space, Leo Tolstoy, a lost scene from Macbeth, a new play for Bryan Cranston and Kate Winslet, Homer Simpson sings a Christmas Carol, a revised Edgar Allan Poe (with even MORE spookiness), and A History of Jacke Wilson in 100 Objects #13 – The Monster. Enjoy!

JACKE WILSON is the pen name of a writer whose books have been described as being “full of intrigue and expertly rendered deadpan comedy.” Born in Wisconsin, Jacke has since lived in Chicago, Bologna, Taiwan, Ann Arbor, Seattle, Mountain View, and New York City. Jacke now lives and works in the Washington D.C. area. Like his writings, the JACKE WILSON SHOW takes an affectionate look at the absurdities in literature, art, philosophy, great books, poetry, current events, hard news, politics, whatever passes for civilization these days, and the human condition (that dying animal). For more about Jacke and his books, visit Jacke at jackewilson.com.

Credits:

  • Danse Macabre Hook, Greta Sting, Fanfare for Space, Return of Lazarus by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
    Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
  • The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe, adapted by Marjorie P. Katz, read by Jacke Wilson Jr.
  • The Lost Scene of Macbeth, Lusty Lizards (excerpts), and A History of Jacke in 100 Objects #13 – The Monster  by Jacke Wilson

Writers Laughing: Leo Tolstoy

Okay, so it’s not the barbaric yawp of a Seamus Heaney, or the dazzling beauty of Zora Neale Hurston, or the transformative shot of Flannery O’Connor taking in the Amana Colonies. But this is Leo Tolstoy! Born in 1828! We’re lucky to have what we have.

And it is mesmerizing. The laughter – you’ll need to look carefully – is around five and a half minutes in. I’d recommend starting at the beginning, but if you’re pressed for time, start there and watch for a minute or so. You’ll get the spirit of the man.

Did you see the part where he drinks the little glass of water? I love that part.

This short video from the BBC is another must-watch:

What a great man. I could watch these all day. Happy Birthday, Big Fella.

What They Knew #14

“Everything intelligent is so boring.”

― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina