Lev Tolstoi, Sofia Tolstaia
Nothing makes a book more interesting than smart people disagreeing about it. When I read Sergei Bocharov’s courteous but rather mixed review of Pavel Basinskii’s Leo Tolstoy: Fleeing from Paradise (Лев Толстой: Бегство из рая, 2010), the book sounded like the kind of thing that was worth reading in theory, but that I’d never get to since there’s always more to read than there is time to read it. After comparing Bocharov’s comments to Hugh McLean’s impression (“[…] I nevertheless wish to sing its praises as resoundingly as I possibly can. This is really a beautiful book, thoughtful, original, deeply felt and deeply sympathetic to its characters and their plights, yet distanced enough to be capable of well-rounded judgments,” 79), I’m moving it higher on the list. McLean also makes me want to read Tolstoi’s wife Sofia’s 1000-page autobiography My Life, now published in English (not yet in Russian) after languishing in an archive for 90 years.