In Quest of Tolstoy

In Quest of Tolstoy

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Hugh McLean

Series: Studies in Russian and Slavic Literatures, Cultures, and History
ISBN: 9781934843024 (hardcover) / 9781936235087 (paper)
Pages: 256 pp.
Publication Date: March 2008

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Leo Tolstoy has held the attention of mankind for well over a century. A supremely talented artist, whose novels and short stories continue to entrance readers all over the world, he was at the same time a fearless moral philosopher who explored and challenged the fundamental bases of human society—political, economic, legal, and cultural. Hugh McLean has been studying and writing about Tolstoy for many years. In these essays he investigates some of the numerous puzzles and paradoxes in the Tolstoyan heritage, engaging both with Tolstoy the artist, author of those incomparable novels, and Tolstoy the thinker, who, from his impregnable outpost at Yasnaya Polyana, questioned the received ideas and beliefs of the whole civilized world. In two concluding essays, “Tolstoy beyond Tolstoy,” McLean deals with the impact of Tolstoy on such diverse figures as Ernest Hemingway and Isaiah Berlin. 

Hugh McLean (PhD Harvard University) is Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, where he also served as Dean of Humanities. He is the author of Nikolai Leskov: The Man and His Art (1977), editor of In the Shade of the Giant: Essays on Tolstoy (1989), and has published articles on Pushkin, Gogol, Chekhov, Zoshchenko, and Mayakovsky. He has been a Fulbright fellow, Guggenheim fellow, and was twice an exchange fellow to the USSR (later Russian) Academy of Sciences.

Reading this collection convinces me that Professor McLean is the most modest, appreciative, and penetrating critic of Tolstoy I’ve ever read.
— Bob Blaisdell, Kingsborough Community College, City University of New York, in the Tolstoy Studies Journal
The volume offers an invaluable companion both for readers of Tolstoy and for long-time fans of McLean’s meticulous and thought provoking work... Through his masterful command of Tolstoy’s writings, McLean seems to lead the reader right into Tolstoy’s mind.
— Robin Feuer Miller, Brandeis University
[T]his book is an important contribution to Tolstoy studies and will be surely of interest not only to specialists in Tolstoy or Russian literature and culture but to the general reader as well, largely thanks to its accessible, unpretentious and engaging style. . . . In addition to its scholarly, informative, and pragmatic value, McLean’s book can be a source of genuine emotional and intellectual pleasure: one leaves it with a sense of having held an illuminating conversation with a very intelligent reader of Tolstoy and a passionate admirer of this great talent.
— Valeria Sobol, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in Slavic and East European Journal

Table of Contents


I. Tolstoy the Artist
“Buried as a Writer and as a Man”: The Puzzle of Family Happiness .
The Case of the Missing Mothers, or When Does a Beginning Begin? 
Truth in Dying
Which English Anna? 
Love in Resurrection: Eros or Agape?
Could the Master Err? A Note on “God Sees the Truth but Waits”
Gary R. Jahn. Was the Master Well Served? Further Comment on “God Sees the Truth but Waits”
II. Tolstoy the Thinker
A Woman’s Place . . . The Young Tolstoy and the “Woman Question” 
Tolstoy and Jesus
Rousseau’s God and Tolstoy’s God
Claws on the Behind: Tolstoy and Darwin
A Clash of Utopias: Tolstoy and Gorky
III. Tolstoy beyond Tolstoy
Hemingway and Tolstoy. A Pugilistic Encounter
Foxes into Hedgehogs. Berlin and Tolstoy

Works Cited
Index of Tolstoy’s Works
Index of Names