It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.
Leo Tolstoy (1828 -1910) is one of the major figures in world literature, and 'War and Peace' is in contention to be considered the greatest novel ever written. But this is only one of his memorable works: 'Anna Karenina' certainly equals it in popularity, and his shorter works, such as 'The Death of Ivan Ilyich' are considered excellent.
Tolstoy was born on 09 September 1828 in Yasnaya Polyana, the family estate in the Tula region of Russia. The Tolstoys were a well-known family of old Russian nobility, and he was connected to the grandest of Russian aristocracy. He was the fourth of five children of Count Nikoláj Illjìsch Tolstoy, a veteran of the campagne against France of 1812, and Countess Mariya Tolstaya. Sadly, Tolstoy’s parents died when he was young, so he and his siblings were brought up by relatives.
In 1844, he began studying law and oriental languages at Kazan University, but left in the middle of his studies and returned to Yasnaya Polyana. In 1851, after running up heavy gambling debts, he joined the army and began writing. His first novel of his autobiographical trilogy Childhood was published in 1852 in the magazine Sovremennik. It was highly lauded and Tolstoy was encouraged to continue with Boyhood and Youth.
In 1857 Tolstoy started a school for peasant children and realised that the secret of changing the world lay in education. In 1862 he married Sonya Andreyevna Behrs and the couple had thirteen children together. Sonya Tolstoy proved helpful to her husband’s writing career, organising his rough notes, copying out drafts, and assisting with his correspondence and business affairs of the estate. Thus Tolstoy plunged into his writing. He started War and Peace in 1862 and its six volumes were published between 1863 and 1869. His next epic novel was Anna Karenina which was published in 1878.Amongst his other published works are The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1859) and The Cossacks (1863)
Tolstoy died of pneumonia at Astapovo railway station on 20 November 1910, after leaving home in the middle of winter at the age of 82. His death came only days after summoning the nerve to abandon his family and wealth and take up the path of a wandering ascetic, a path that he had agonized over pursuing for decades.