THE LIBERATION OF TOLSTOY: A Tale of Two Writers

Ivan Bunin, Author THE LIBERATION OF TOLSTOY: A Tale of Two Writers

This brooding, brilliant yet rather eccentric work by the Nobel Prize–winning Russian author Bunin (1870–1953) resists categorization. In a way, it is a literary biography of Tolstoy: Bunin is clearly obsessed with Tolstoy's death (in 1910) and the "heart wrenching suffering, doubt, and angst that Tolstoy, as the quintessential seeker, often encountered in his spiritual search." This work is also autobiographical, as Bunin feels an intense identification with Tolstoy: both were of the same social status (gentry), were renowned Russian writers, and shared certain aspects of temperament, such as the unceasing questioning of life's purpose. However, Bunin also felt like "a student, son, and disciple at the feet of a teacher, father, and guide." This volume can also be seen as literary criticism, as Bunin reacts—at times vehemently—to Tolstoy's critics in an effort to present the "true" Tolstoy. Perhaps this work is best read, in the words of the presenters of this text, as a "Bakhtinian-type 'dialogue' in which Bunin engaged Tolstoy on the... 'damned questions' of life." Particularly important is that this is the first English translation of a text that is now more than 70 years old, and a document that, while essential to scholarship on Bunin, has frequently been overlooked. Marullo and Khmelkov have not only supplied us with a graceful translation, they have provided annotations, more voluminous than Bunin's original text, that display a breathtaking depth of knowledge about Bunin, Tolstoy and Russian literature and culture in general. This is an invaluable contribution. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 04/02/2001
Release date: 00/00/0000
Genre: Nonfiction
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