Count Leo Tolstoy was born on September 9, 1828, in Yasnaya Polyana, Russia. Orphaned at nine, he was brought up by an elderly aunt and educated by French tutors until he matriculated at Kazan University in 1844. In 1847, he gave up his studies and, after several aimless years, volunteered for military duty in the army, serving as a junior officer in the Crimean War before retiring in 1857. In 1862, Tolstoy married Sophie Behrs, a marriage that was to become, for him, bitterly unhappy. His diary, started in 1847, was used for self-study and self-criticism; it served as the source from which he drew much of the material that appeared not only in his great novels War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877), but also in his shorter works. Seeking religious justification for his life, Tolstoy evolved a new Christianity based upon his own interpretation of the Gospels. Yasnaya Polyana became a mecca for his many converts At the age of eighty-two, while away from home, the writer suffered a break down in his health in Astapovo, Riazan, and he died there on November 20, 1910.
Ronald Wilks studied Russian language and literature at Trinity College, Cambridge, and later Russian literature at London University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1972. He has also translated The Little Demon by Sologub and, for Penguin Classics, My Childhood, My Apprenticeship and My Universities by Gorky, The Golovlyov Family by Saltykov-Shchedrin and four volumes of stories by Chekhov: The Kiss and Other Stories, The Duel and Other Stories, The Party and Other Stories and The Fiancée and Other Stories.