My Life

Edited by: Andrew Donskov

1192 Pages · February 21 2011

Cloth ISBN: 9780776630427

PDF ISBN: 9780776619224

ePub ISBN: 9780776619217

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The Modern Language Association (MLA) awarded the Lois Roth Award to John Woodsworth and Arkadi Klioutchanski of the University of Ottawa’s Slavic Research Group for their translation of Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya’s My Life memoirs.

My Life was selected among the top 100 non-fiction works of 2010 by The Globe and Mail.
It has also won an honourable mention in the Biography and Autobiography category of the 2010 American Publishers Awards for the Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE) awards.
And, finally, it made it into the Association of American University Presses' 2011 Book, Jacket and Journal Show.

One hundred years after his death, Leo Tolstoy continues to be regarded as one of the world’s 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 husband’s 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.

Tolstaya’s 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 husband’s character, providing new details about his life to which she alone was privy. She offers a better understanding of Tolstoy’s 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 right—as well as a translator, amateur artist, musician, photographer, and businesswoman—a rarity in the largely male-dominated world of the time. She was actively involved in the relief efforts for the 1891–92 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.

Editor’s Note
Selected Genealogy
Introduction: “Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya: An Insider’s Perspective”
My Life
Part I (1840s–1862)
Part II (1862–1875)
Part III (1876–1883)
Part IV (1884–1888)
Part V (1889–1891)
Part VI (1892–1895)
Part VII (1896–1899)
Part VIII (1900–1901)
Appendix: Poems Cited
Outline of Chapters
Index of References to Tolstoy’s Works
Index of Names

Author Bio

Andrew Donskov is professor of Russian Literature and director of the Slavic Research Group at the University of Ottawa. He has authored and edited many books on Tolstoy, including Leo Tolstoy and the Canadian Doukhobors (Carleton University Centre for Research on Canadian-Russian Relations, 2005). 
John Woodsworth is a research associate with the Slavic Research Group at the University of Ottawa and a member of the Literary Translators' Association of Canada. He has been a professional translator for over forty-five years and has translated more than 20 books.
Arkadi Klioutchanski is a doctoral student of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto. He is a research associate with the Slavic Research Group at the University of Ottawa, where he also teaches Russian.