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My Life

Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya

Publication Year: 2011

One hundred years after his death, Leo Tolstoy continues to be regarded as one of the worlds most accomplished writers. Historically, little attention has been paid to his wife Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya. Acting in the capacity of literary assistant, translator, transcriber, and editor, she played an important role in the development of her husbands career. Her memoirs which she titled My Life lay dormant for almost a century. Now their first-time-ever appearance in Russia is complemented by an unabridged and annotated English translation.

Tolstayas story takes us from her childhood through the early years of her marriage, the writing of War and Peace and Anna Karenina and into the first year of the twentieth century. She paints an intimate and honest portrait of her husbands character, providing new details about his life to which she alone was privy. She offers a better understanding of Tolstoys character, his qualities and failings as a husband and a father, and forms a picture of the quintessential Tolstoyan character which underlies his fiction.

My Life also reveals that Tolstaya was an accomplished author in her own rightas well as a translator, amateur artist, musician, photographer, and businesswomana rarity in the largely male-dominated world of the time. She was actively involved in the relief efforts for the 189192 famine and the emigration of the Doukhobors in 1899. She was a prolific correspondent, in touch with many prominent figures in Russian and Western society. Guests in her home ranged from peasants to princes, from anarchists to artists, from composers to philosophers. Her descriptions of these personalities read as a chronicle of the times, affording a unique portrait of late-19th- and early-20th-century Russian society, ranging from peasants to the Tsar himself.

My Life is the most important primary document about Tolstoy to be published in many years and a unique and intimate portrait of one of the greatest literary minds of all time.

Published by: University of Ottawa Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Table of Contents

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

The present volume owes its publication to many individuals and institutions in both Canada and Russia. First, I should like to sincerely thank the State L. N. Tolstoy Museum in Moscow and its Director, Professor Vitalij Remizov, for granting us the exclusive rights of translation and publication in English of this most valuable material and for furnishing us with equally valuable counsel. My gratitude also extends to his colleagues at the Museum: Senior Researchers Natalija Kalinina ...

Map of European Russia & Ukraine (Early 20th Century)

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pp. ix

Selected Genealogy

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pp. x-xiii

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From the Editor

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pp. xiv-xviii

On behalf of the Slavic Research Group at the University of Ottawa and the University of Ottawa Press, I welcome you to a new adventure in literary and historical discovery. Readers will be interested to know that Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya’s autobiographical work My life [Moja zhizn’] has only now been published in its entirety in the original Russian for the very first time — by the State L. N. Tolstoy Museum in Moscow. Having been generously provided by the Museum with ...

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Editor’s Introduction: Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya: A critical look at an insider’s perspective (first epigraph: Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya’s Preface to My Life)

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pp. xix-lix

That Fet was right, I hope the reader will discover in reading this remarkable narrative, and find that it is much more than her answer to “acute misunderstandings and false reports” — it is an engaging account of her life and the life of her husband and family. It is a confirmation of what she wrote in 1904 as a Preface to My life (quoted above in its entirety), namely, that “the significance of my forty-two years of conjugal life with Lev Nikolaevich cannot be excluded from his life”. ...

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PART I: 1840s to 1862

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pp. 1-62

I was born on 22 August 1844 in the village of Pokrovskoe Glebovo-Streshnevo,1 twelve versts2 from Moscow, where my parents had their dacha.3 My father, Andrej Evstaf ’evich Bers,4 was a court doctor, Physician-in-Chief to the Senate at the Court Office. He was born in Moscow and finished university there. He was a Lutheran, and at thirty-four years of age married my mother, a sixteen-year-old patient of his named Ljubov’ Aleksandrovna Islavina,5 whom he had fallen in ...

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PART II: 1862 to 1875

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pp. 63-220

After our wedding in Moscow, Lev Nikolaevich and I arrived at Yasnaya Polyana in just under twenty-four hours. It’s strange, but after a torturesome night in the carriage I have no recollection of what happened during the trip, what we talked about, or where and how we stopped. By the evening of the next day we arrived home, at Yasnaya Polyana, and I was so glad of that. The first thing I saw upon entering the house was Auntie Tat’jana Aleksandrovna Ergol’skaja1 ...

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PART III: 1876 to 1883

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pp. 221-386

Our family life, which now included five children, flowed along as before. To outward appearance, everything was the same: classes, work, walks, rides, Lev Nikolaevich’s writing of Anna Karenina. But I could feel a growing sense of alarm in Lev Nikolaevich, a dissatisfaction with life, a seeking and a need for greater religious content in his personal life. For example, Lev Nikolaevich wrote to Countess Aleksandra Andreevna Tolstaya:1 ...

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PART IV: 1884 to 1888

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pp. 389-558

At the beginning of January Nikolaj Nikolaevich Ge1 came to Moscow once again and asked Lev Nikolaevich permission to paint his portrait. Ge did not require any posing. He set himself up in Lev Nikolaevich’s small study upstairs, directly across from his desk. Ge painted him while he was at work on his writing. Ge worked diligently and lovingly. I recall how his face was transformed when he was painting — it became serious, tense, and his eyes showed a concentrated expression; it seemed as though ...

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PART V: 1889 to 1891

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pp. 559-710

On the evening of the 1st of January, my whole family was at home, when we were suddenly informed that mummers had arrived and wanted to come in. The young people got all excited with delight, while Lev Nikolaevich and I found it altogether boring. I never did like mummers. It’s never really fun. They come in, bow, people look at them, and that’s it. Nobody knows what these mummers are supposed to do or what we are supposed to do with them. That’s the way it ...

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PART VI: 1892 to 1895

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pp. 711-863

At the beginning of January my whole family gathered in Moscow. Only Lev [Lëva] was missing. He stayed in Samara Gubernia,1 where he was intensely involved in feeding the famine victims. His letters made a heartwrenching impression on me. For example, he wrote: “There is such a mass of sick people, it’s simply frightening…” And Lëva also wrote, in response to his father’s reproaches, that he was not only opening soup-kitchens but handing out flour, too. ...

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PART VII: 1896 to 1899

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pp. 864-984

I have in my possession rather little in the way of materials relating to 1896, especially little in respect to Lev Nikolaevich, since [at that time] I never had in mind to do what I am doing now, i. e., describing our life. Nevertheless, I shall describe that year as much as I am able to in good conscience, based on the information I have in the materials [available to me] and from my memory. On account of the administration of the Moscow Historical Museum’s unjustly holding ...

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PART VIII: 1900 to 1901

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pp. 985-1022

I have fewer and fewer materials available for my subsequent notes, since [my husband’s] diaries and all the papers from 1900 up to Lev Nikolaevich’s death are [now] with my daughter Sasha. It has been rumoured that they were all given to the Academy [of Arts] in Petersburg. In the meantime, all my papers are now in the Rumjantsev Museum1 in Moscow. I did not keep a diary in 1900. I shall jot down some fragmentary pieces of information. ...

Poetry Appendix

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pp. 1021-1043


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pp. 1045-1056

Chapter Outline

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pp. 1059-1073

Index of Titles

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pp. 1075-1083

Footnote Index

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pp. 1085-1125

E-ISBN-13: 9780776619224
E-ISBN-10: 0776619225
Print-ISBN-13: 9780776630427
Print-ISBN-10: 0776630423

Page Count: 1192
Illustrations: 64 pages of black and white and colour photographs
Publication Year: 2011