Tuesday, September 09, 2014


As Google honours the great Leo Tolstoy, I remember his works. During those days, when I would read only Asomiya, there was a whole lot of his works available in my mother tongue, in nice hard cover books, published by Raduga Publishers, Moscow. Those days, socialist India had very good ties with USSR, and Tolstoy was one of the prime targets of cultural exchange. Then, he was also an acknowledged teacher of Mahatma Gandhi. That helped.

Later, at the university, Anna Karenina was prescribed for the syllabus. It was a fat book and I was not interested in the book, not just because of the bulk, but because it was prescribed. You know, when you are young, you don’t want to follow rules. Anyway, we had a good teacher, who took just two classes on Anna Karenina, and spoke about trains, the train from where Anna gets down and meets Vronsky and later, the same train where she flings herself to death. I finally manager to work my way through the novel, and the only person I liked there was Dmitri Levin. And, Kitty too, I guess.

I haven’t managed the courage to tackle the might heft of War and Peace though the novel has a pride place in the library at my home. But I have seen the film, with Henry Fonda and Audrey Hepburn several times, and I think it is a very good adaptation.

I think I have read the Life and Death of Ivan Ilych, but I don’t remember anything about it.

What distills the Leo Tolstoy experience for me are the short stories. There are just a handful of them, but all of them are gems. The story about a man who is so worried about his pumpkins that when he visits the shrine he only sees pumpkins. The story about the man who runs and runs for land and eventually dies (How Much Land Does a Man Need?). And finally, the story about the angel who falls down on earth and works for a cobbler (What Men Live By). Oh, I love that last story.

In film, I loved The Last Station, despite the fact that I had some strong reservations. But Christopher Plummer was great as the maestro. Wikipedia says: A 2009 film about Tolstoy's final year, The Last Station, based on the novel by Jay Parini, was made by director Michael Hoffman with Christopher Plummer as Tolstoy and Helen Mirren as Sofya Tolstoya. Both performers were nominated for Oscars for their roles. There have been other films about the writer, including Departure of a Grand Old Man, made in 1912 just two years after his death, How Fine, How Fresh the Roses Were (1913), and Leo Tolstoy, directed by and starring Sergei Gerasimov in 1984.

More on Leo Tolstoy Here.

No comments:

Post a Comment