5 Works of the Author One Must Read


Last Updated: September 09, 2022, 06:45 IST

Leo Tolstoy was considered to be one of the giants of Russian literature. (Representative image: Shutterstock)

Considered to be one of the giants of Russian literature, Tolstoy’s fiction consistently attempts to convey realistically the Russian society in which he lived.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time, Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, better known as Leo Tolstoy, was born on September 9, 1828. The author of such books as War and Peace and Anna Karenina, Tolstoy’s ideas on nonviolent resistance, expressed in such works as The Kingdom of God Is Within You (1894), were to have a profound impact on such pivotal 20th-century figures as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

Considered to be one of the giants of Russian literature, Tolstoy’s fiction consistently attempts to convey realistically the Russian society in which he lived. The author, who received multiple nominations for Nobel Prize in Literature every year from 1902 to 1906, and nominations for Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, 1902 and 1910, but never won any, first achieved literary acclaim in his twenties with his semi-autobiographical trilogy, Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth (1852–1856).

On the author’s birth anniversary, here are 5 books by him, one must-read:

  1. War and Peace (1869)
    Considered to one of Tolstoy’s finest literary achievements, the novel follows the lives of five Russian aristocratic families as it chronicles the French invasion of Russia and the impact of the Napoleonic era on Tsarist society. The novel begins with the execution of Louis Antoine, Duke of Enghien in 1805, while Russia is ruled by Alexander I during the Napoleonic Wars.
  2. Anna Karenina (1878)
    A complex work in eight parts, contained in two volumes. The novel deals with several themes including betrayal, faith, family, marriage, Imperial Russian society, etc. Tolstoy himself called Anna Karenina his first true novel. The plot centers on an extramarital affair between Anna and dashing cavalry officer Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky that scandalizes the social circles of Saint Petersburg. This forces the young lovers to flee for Italy in a futile search for happiness.
  3. Resurrection (1899)
    The last novel written by Leo Tolstoy, he intended the novel as an exposition of the injustice of man-made laws and the hypocrisy of the church. The story is about a nobleman named Dmitri Ivanovich Nekhlyudov, who seeks redemption for a sin committed years earlier. His brief affair with a maid had resulted in her being fired and ending up as a prostitute.
  4. The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886)
    The novella, which is considered to be one of the masterpieces of his late fiction, tells the story of a high-court judge in 19th-century Russia and his sufferings and death from a terminal illness.
  5. The Devil (1909)
    Written in 1889 but published posthumously, the novella deals with the consequences of sexual emotion and is about a man Eugene Irtenev who commits suicide unable to decide whether he should kill his wife and run off with his ex-lover or kill his ex-lover to lead a normal life with his wife. There is an alternate version of the ending, where Eugene kills his ex-lover with a revolver, is imprisoned, and eventually returns home a useless drunkard.

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