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Comments

Stefanie

It is hard sometimes to separate author from book and you may never know if it is Tolstoy or his character who thinks the woman is the devil. That you want to read more Tolstoy in spite of how you feel about him says a lot though. You remind me I hope to read War and Peace this year.

Caroline

I feel the same about the man Tolstoy and pretty much the same about the writer. This sounds like an interesting story though, one I would love to read but I see some problematic elements.
Calling a woman a witch because a man feels attracted... Bah... Here she's called a devil which is rarer.
I saw a movie on his final years. I think I mentioned it before. It was a bit disturbing. He must have treated his wife very badly. Have you read anything by her? I think she must have been a fine writer.

AJ

Such a crank and such a genius ... I do think Tolstoy always repays the reading of him though -- I have filled margin after margin of book pages and entire journal pages arguing with him. He's all there on the page and he gives as good as he gets.

I can't think of another writer who is more often disagreed with by readers who yet has such a strong hold on their affections.

Jim

I think it is important to remember that we The Devil is a work of fiction. While Tolstoy makes use of incidents from his own life, they are used to create a novella and not a memoir. The feelings we have about Eugene Irtenev are not because we disagree with Tolstoy, he made us feel that way. This is more of a starting point than a conclusion. What makes Irtenev like this? What are the alternatives? What does this tell us about Russians, social class, gender, conventions, money, free will, etc.?

Danielle

I would love to reread War and Peace--I'd like to try a different translation, too. Maybe if you read it later in the year I might be tempted to read along... (though don't quote me on that...). It's probably a little unfair that I am thinking about Tolstoy's private life in relation to his fiction, but it's hard not to have it in the back of my mind.

Danielle

I've always had a problem with that sort of attitude--that it's always the fault of the woman when a man behaves badly (why I often have a hard time with religion for example since you hear it with women needing to wear veils...). I have not read anything by Sophia Tolstoy, though I did look at her journal when it was ordered for our library. I think it would be interesting to read them. Sometimes it's best not to know too much about the private life of writers you respect, I think.

Danielle

It is paradoxical--He was an unusual man with a very complicated personal life, but as a writer he really was a genius. Even in this slim little novella he has much to say and makes the reader really think about these people and their lives and motivations. He's definitely someone who I could (and will) read over again!

Danielle

Absolutely, and I know I need to remind myself of that fact when I pick up one of Tolstoy's works where the fiction takes on a certain feel as though he is writing from personal experience. I imagine it would be hard to not have something of yourself in the characters you create, but you're right they are still fictional. That's why I do respect Tolstoy the writer since he does push the reader to think about these deeper issues and motivations. I do, though, always sort of wonder about what a writer thinks of his/her characters--Eugene/Yevgeny in this translation, isn't necessarily an unlikable character really--he does try hard to be faithful to his wife--he does try and stay away from temptations and do the right thing. I'm not sure exactly what it is that pushes him over the edge--the endings are very different really (Tolstoy gives two options), so it's a little bit open to interpretation. This is definitely a story that can be read again and again.

litlove

I completely agree with your sentiments on Tolstoy. For other authors it can be easier to separate the man from the work, but Tolstoy really did bring them so very close together. Still, I very much enjoyed The Kreutzer Sonata I read by him (also drawn from his life, and also about men behaving badly towards women because of their own tempestuous feelings) and found it a gripping story.

litlove

I completely agree with your sentiments on Tolstoy. For other authors it can be easier to separate the man from the work, but Tolstoy really did bring them so very close together. Still, I very much enjoyed The Kreutzer Sonata I read by him (also drawn from his life, and also about men behaving badly towards women because of their own tempestuous feelings) and found it a gripping story.

Danielle

I am going to have to look for The Kreutzer Sonata--I recall you having read it. He was an interesting individual--and makes for conflicted sort of response, but an author I will certainly continue reading. Maybe that will be one of the Melville House novellas that I will get with my subscription!

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