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!

The History of Literature #92 – The Books of Our Lives

 

“In the middle of life’s journey,” wrote Dante Alighieri, “I found myself in a selva oscura.” Host Jacke Wilson and frequent guest Mike Palindrome take stock of their own selva oscura in a particularly literary way: What books have they read? What books have been the most important to them? What do they expect to come next? It’s a celebration of reading – and friendship – on this episode of The History of Literature Podcast.

Authors discussed include: John D. Fitzgerald, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Thomas Mann, Rainer Maria Rilke, Elena Ferrante, Alice Munro, Lorrie Moore, Jay McInerney, Rene Descartes, James Boswell and Samuel Johnson, Graham Greene, Patrick O’Brian, Marcel Proust, Javier Marias, Haruki Murakami, Paul Celan, and Leo Tolstoy.

FREE GIFT! 

Write a review on iTunes (or another site), then send us an email at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com to receive your free History of Literature postcard as a thank you gift. Act now while supplies last!

Show Notes: 

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

You can find more literary discussion at jackewilson.com and more episodes of the series at historyofliterature.com.

Check out our Facebook page at facebook.com/historyofliterature.

You can follow Jacke Wilson at his Twitter account @WriterJacke. You can also follow Mike and the Literature Supporters Club (and receive daily book recommendations) by looking for @literatureSC.

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

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