Leo Tolstoy


…but then got ran over by a bus and died. No im totally kidding! but you really did get the flu and couldn’t join me.

The talk was at Housing Works, and it included two other speakers: David Gordon and Michael Kunichika.Your expectations were unclear: talk about Russian writers who, though they left us long ago, remain potent presences for readers and writers today. From Dostoevsky and Tolstoy to Vasily Grossman and Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, we’ll learn about obsession, madness, realism, fables, and more, in an event with all the drama and pathos (well, at least some of the drama and pathos) of the great Russian novels themselves.


Here are all the texts I would have sent you, in chronological order and without clarifying who said what, because color-coordinating via SMS goes a step too far:

truth-seeking urgency intrinsic in russian lit

antithesis to beckett & writers who focused extensively on beauty of language

falling in love w/ english language, less plot driven urgency

dostoevsky similar to conrad in terms of truth-seeking urgency

multivocality of dostoevsky

there is no right, just different truths

dostoevsky threw the best literary parties (metaphorically speaking, as a creator)

proust s parties were too long, and maybe the guests were wearing better clothes

abstract psychological curiosity in motives, including abnormalities–>russian approach

going in depth for big questions, characters not being introverted

serialization of lengthy works, such as ‘war & peace,’ adds towards creating a broader debate. they become part of the broader debates occurring during their time

some compare the creation of microcosms of russian lit to ‘the wire’

comparing to british office, where they look at the camera at moments of despair but the viewer cannot do anything to help // to embarrasing dostoevsky characters

nabokov disliked dostoevsky for his “bad writing”

dostoevsky had a v diff approach to writing from nabokov: almost got executed literally, then was told he had another five years

that is also why dostoevsky did not pursue inanimate writing, unlike tolstoy (?)

nabokov didn t like music!

neither did dostoevsky !! (probably diff reasons)

saul bellow s ‘dean of december’–>similar urgency in truth-seeking (someone from the audience)

can reading a book be so vivid it appears like a different life?

if yes, it depends on willingness of writers to go to great lengths in creating characters who go too far, embarrass themselves/ are visceral

perhaps a key element that helps bring about the urgent truth-seeking: religion s role for the writers

religion, like their fiction, was trying to explain what goes on beyond the physical

nabokov s direct ancestor was dostoevsky s jailor. weird how he was not willing to cut him any slack, considering

dostoevsky was crowd-pleasing oriented bc he lived off writing




Behind the Scenes & Craft Notes & Events & Haut or not & Random / 2 Comments
February 11th, 2014 / 5:20 pm

The Writer at Work

by Tom Gauld


Behind the Scenes / 14 Comments
December 14th, 2010 / 2:45 pm

Classic Word Spaces (4): Leo Tolstoy

58-Tolstoy's House

View of the house from the gardens.

Matthew Simmons already did a quick feature on Leo Tolstoy’s Word Space (the desk in the photo from Matthew’s post, I believe, is the desk from Tolstoy’s family estate in Yasnaya Polyana, south of Moscow), but I wanted to post about his Moscow home, in which Tolstoy and his family wintered from 1882 to 1901. According to what I’ve read on various travel sites, he purchased the home to placate his wife, who had grown tired of spending so much time out in the country.

In this house, he wrote The Death of Ivan Illych, among other of his later writings, took up bicycling, played chess, met Tchaikovsky, etc.

After the jump, I’ve posted a lot of photographs. They are not my photographs. I did not take photographs of the house when I was in the house. The photographs come from a personal blog I found through Google image searches. The travel blog belongs to someone named Bryan Persell. Thank you, thank you, Bryan, whoever you are, for posting these pics in 2007. I’m going to type about each photograph the things I remember from when we toured the house in June. The things I type up are what our guide told us, but if anyone knows more or has a correction, please share in the comments.


Word Spaces / 14 Comments
August 6th, 2009 / 3:35 pm

Classic Word Spaces: Leo Tolstoy


That’s Tolstoy’s desk. I’m not sure where he put his laptop, though. Maybe on top of the blotter. He probably moved all the stuff and put his laptop on the blotter.

He probably also had wi-fi and didn’t have to plug it into his DSL line.

Also—is that a tongue depressor in the cup? Why did he keep a tongue depressor in a pen cup on his writing desk? Do you think he was always pulling out a mirror and checking his uvula for swelling?

Author News & Word Spaces / 10 Comments
January 22nd, 2009 / 8:06 pm