Tolstoy and Tolstaya

A Portrait of a Life in Letters

Edited by: Andrew Donskov

510 Pages · 10x7.5 · May 23 2017

Cloth ISBN: 9780776624716

PDF ISBN: 9780776624723

ePub ISBN: 9780776624730

Availability: In stock

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54.95 $ CA
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Both Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy (1828–1910) and his wife Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya (1844–1919) were prolific letterwriters.

Lev Nikolaevich wrote approximately 10,000 letters over his lifetime — 840 of these addressed to his wife. Letters written by (or to) Sofia Andreevna over her lifetime also numbered in the thousands. When Tolstaya published Lev Nikolaevich’s letters to her, she declined to include any of her 644 letters to her husband. The absence of half their correspondence obscured the underlying significance of many of his comments to her and occasionally led the reader to wrong conclusions.

The current volume, in presenting a constantly unfolding dialogue between the Tolstoy-Tolstaya couple — mostly for the first time in English translation — offers unique insights into the minds of two fascinating individuals over the 48-year period of their conjugal life. Not only do we ’peer into the souls’ of these deep-thinking correspondents by penetrating their immediate and extended family life — full of joy and sadness, bliss and tragedy but we also observe, as in a generation-spanning chronicle, a variety of scenes of Russian society, from rural peasants to lords and ladies. 

This hard-cover, illustrated critical edition includes a foreword by Vladimir Il’ich Tolstoy (Lev Tolstoy’s great-great-grandson), introduction, maps, genealogy, as well as eleven additional letters by Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya published here for the very first time in either Russian or English translation. It is a beautiful complement to My Life, a collection of Sofia Tolstaya’s memoirs published in English in 2010 at the University of Ottawa Press.
Acknowledgements VII Map of European Russia (early twentieth century) and list of Russian geographical names IX Selected Genealogy XVI Foreword by Vladimir Il’ich Tolstoy XXI From the Editor XXIII From the Translators XXXI Chronological list of letters 1862–1910 lXIX Editor’s Introduction: Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy & Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya: A dialogue between two independently minded kindred spirits XXXIII Part I: Letters 1862–1879 3 Part II: Letters 1880–1888 83 Part III: Letters 1889–1910 199 Part IV: Eleven unpublished letters (1864–1905) 313 Bibliography 341 Selected Chronology 349 List of Periodical Titles with their English equivalents 397 Index of Works by Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy and Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya 401 Index of Names 407


Paris Book Festival, FR, 2018


There are elements in their relationship that
are so very universal, particularly the weighing and measuring and comparing of the contributions of each of the spouses to the union and to the household.  It is refreshing to have this unvarnished, un-romanticized window on the relationship of such a famous and fascinating couple. It is almost literary voyeurism.  Imagine having one's own relationship laid bare for public consumption in this way.  

Gerald Dust

The Tolstoys had things to say — to each other and to the world. And because that communication was written down in the form of letters to each other, it is possible to compile their thoughts into a book. (...) It is a companion book to [Andrew Donskov] earlier, highly regarded collection of Sofia Tolstoy’s memoirs called My Life, published in 2010. Donskov is a distinguished professor of languages at the University of Ottawa and a respected expert on Tolstoy and his wife.

Peter Robb, Artsfile

It is a treasure! (...) such a fine volume. It will stand for ages as
the book in its field. 

David Staines

So how did the written memoirs of Tolstoy's indomitable wife, Sofia Tolstaya (the Russian feminine version of Tolstoy), one of the most important and anticipated works in modern Tolstoy scholarship, land at a university press in Canada's capital city? As with most things in academia, it involves an almost obsessive love of the subject, and lots of time. (...) To publish on Tolstoy you need permission from one of the two directors. Or, as [Andrew] Donskov jokingly puts it: "The only way to get something from Russians is to know them." (...) When Tolstaya's memoirs were scheduled to be printed in Russia as a coffee-table book, Donskov was entrusted with creating the full scholarly edition, as well as the obligation to treat the material as seriously as it deserved.

Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston, "How a Canadian University nabbed the rights to the memoirs of Tolstoy's wife"

Tolstoy and Tolstaya: A Portrait of a Life in Letters offers 239 of more than 1500 letters the couple wrote to each other in the decades ahead, as Tolstoy became a celebrated author and Sonya his respected wife. It's a weigthy, fluently translated book of 400 large-format pages, a solemn product of serious scholarship, announcing itself, a little self-righteously, as an important tool for future Tolstoy studies.

Tim Parks, Vol.40, No.8