Tolstoy's powerful semiautobiographical stories based on his time spent in the Russian army, part of our series of fresh new Tolstoy translations
In 1851, at the age of twenty-two, Tolstoy joined the Russian army. The four years he spent as a soldier were among the most significant in his life and inspired the tales collected here. In "The Cossacks," Tolstoy tells the story of Olenin, a cultured Russian whose experiences among the Cossack warriors of Central Asia leave him searching for a more authentic life. "The Sevastopol Sketches" bring into stark relief the realities of military life during the Crimean War. And "Hadji Murat" paints a portrait of a great leader torn apart by divided loyalties. In writing about individuals and societies in conflict, Tolstoy has penned some of the most brilliant stories about the nature of war.
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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.
David McDuff was educated at the University of Edinburgh and has translated a number of works for Penguin Classics, including Dostoyevskys The Brothers Karamazov.