Is Tolstoy the greatest writer of all time? | Books | The Guardian
Moonlighting from my teaching of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, I had been .. This was not, however, the end of the connection between A. D. Harvey and .. The worst thing here, if they are fictitious, is a violation of the trust that. cases the Tolstoy-Dickens relationship is discussed in two or three pages, the rest being . for another, the trust of one in another, the mutual love, respect and friendship .. corridors of the spirit", compared to Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. Matthew. The literary critic George Steiner has provided the most authoritative resolution to the problem with his book Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, which.
Tolstoy emphasizes the ways in which people relate to one another in a societal context. Dostoevsky digs deeply into the individual human psyche. Tolstoy paints a world in which extreme things happen to ordinary people. Dostoevsky shows us the extremes of which people are capable. Each of the two writers describes crises in faith.
Each describes the journey to a life of spiritual values. Both Dostoevsky and Tolstoy write in a way that conveys the energy of life. Tolstoy shows a love of life of this world — the smell of the earth, the beauty of a flower. He speaks about living a life of authenticity. Both Dostoevsky and Tolstoy make me think about what is important in life. Both urge the reader to appreciate those things that money or competition cannot bestow — love, and life itself… …So who is the greater writer, Dostoevsky or Tolstoy?
I have long ago given up on the idea of objective appraisal of literature: All sorts of ghosts crawl into the pages, a prehistory of tastes and experiences and prejudices and fears. So if I say Dostoevsky is a greater writer than Tolstoy, I only mean he has been greater to me. My first encounter with Russian literature was as random as can be expected for a twelve-year-old girl growing up in suburban Costa Rica.
Both Tolstoy and Dostoevsky emerged like potatoes out of a giant plastic bag containing several books of ranging worth. I was lucky enough to be, at the time, very young, very curious and seriously uninformed. Crime and Punishment followed shortly after, with the same scandalous lack of veneration.
I loved them both: Tolstoy, for the story he told, and Dostoevsky, for the thoughts he provoked. Many years and many books later, the two authors continue to inhabit different places in my mind and in my memory. Tolstoy conjures up images of endless steppes and elegant Petersburg homes, where great and complex characters go about the business of living. His books are showcases of literary craftsmanship, epic tales told with impeccable skill.
I experience his books as a ceaseless battle of demons that never rest — not even as you turn the page, as you end a chapter, as you finish the novel and read it again. A Dostoevsky novel sitting on a shelf is a bowl of anxiety and confusion, a bundle of frustrations marked by a desperate need for redemption. His protagonists are shown in extreme situations, where not only their personality but their very nature is put to the test.
What I find mesmerizing in Dostoevsky is not just the details of the story, the particular twists and turns of the lives of Rodion Raskolnikov or Dmitri Karamazov; it is the mere possibility of their existence. It is, in the end, the mind-bending notion that we could be just like them — that any of us, any ordinary, simple human being, carries around the highest plane and the lowest point of moral capabilities.
If that is not writing of the ultimate importance, I do not know what is. Chris Huntingtonauthor of the novel Mike Tyson Slept Here Reading Tolstoy transports me to another world; reading Dostoevsky makes me feel alive in this one. So many beautiful horses! Women like Kitty and Anna Karenina! It feels like my life again. On the other hand, many times someone will frustrate me at work, and I hear these words from The Brothers Karamazov thundering in my head: As I lead my every day life so unlike ice-skating in Moscow or cutting grain on my estatesjust imagining that I resemble beautiful Levin is to invite self-ridicule.
I like him more than he would like me. We demonstrate things differently. I can be innocent and guilty both. That, to me, is life. Borges, I believe, said there was something adolescent about a love of Dostoevsky — that maturity demanded other writers. All I know is, when I first read Crime and Punishment, that book represented a lot of work for me.
What did I have to feel so guilty about, at eighteen? I was frantic with potential energy. I would have been better off with War and Peace — because I had the temperament of Prince Andrei, ready to go to war. I was angry with myself and frustrated, but I had no major regrets. That kind of bond would only come later for me, when I understood what it was like to tie myself to someone for life- when I understood what mutual forgiveness was.
Is Tolstoy the greatest writer of all time?
When I was in my early twenties, one of my friends drunkenly stabbed another. Instead, I married her. Later on, I lost her. I chased her in the snow, like Dmitri. I understand Dostoevsky now. What adolescent understands these things? No one really has to choose one or the other. I simply prefer Dostoevsky. For my last argument, I will simply cite an expert far older and wiser than me: Just recently I was feeling unwell and read House of the Dead.
I had forgotten a good bit, read it over again, and I do not know a better book in all our new literature, including Pushkin. A splendid, instructive book. I enjoyed myself the whole day as I have not done for a long time.
If you see Dostoevsky, tell him that I love him. My own sympathies are with Tolstoy, and even my criteria for judging a work of fiction, I admit, are relentlessly Tolstoyan. True, Dostoevsky saw and felt modern experience in all of its isolating, tragic depth. He showed the obsessive power of ideas and the psychological crises, cracks, and explosions of the soul that have become familiar in our modern world.
In fact, when he tries to do so, he reveals his deficiencies. At the end of Crime and Punishment Raskolnikov flings himself at the feet of Sonya, who has followed him to Siberia where he is serving his sentence for double homicide. Sonya jumps up, looks at him and trembles. The author of Anna Karenina teaches us how to seek meaning not through grandiose romantic strivings, like Anna and Vronsky, but within the limits of imperfect social and family structures, like Kitty and Levin.
Tragedy is just around the corner, or in your living room. But Tolstoy was a realist in the total sense. And that truth is one every generation recognizes as its own, not just those in a state of social crisis or existential despair. If Dostoevsky urges us to reach for the heavens, then Tolstoy teaches us by artistic example how we may touch the transcendent here and now in our messy, fleeting world. Dostoevsky spoke to the twentieth century.
When Dickens met Dostoevsky – TheTLS
He was unique in foreseeing that it would not be an era of sweetness and light, but the bloodiest on record. With uncanny accuracy, The Demons predicted, in detail, what totalitarianism would be. Neither heredity nor environment, singly or together, fully accounts for a human being. True, some people, and all social sciences aspiring to resemble physics, deny the surplus.
But they apply their theories only to others. No matter what he professes, nobody experiences himself as a mere play of external forces. Everyone feels regret or guilt, and there is no escaping the agony of choice. Leo Tolstoy in later life telling his grandchildren a story. I didn't used to, but I have grown into him with age. When I was a boy I used to groan at the farming bits in Anna Karenina — now I could read about farming all day.
Thee is so much in his work that you don't understand, but you feel that one day you might. What is great about him is that he lets his characters grow up — they change, act totally out of character, and yet they are recognisably the same people. In War and Peace, Natasha starts out as a girl bouncing around quite happily, and at the end she is this grumpy matron who doesn't want to see anyone — yet somehow you believe it's the same person.
I don't know how he does that. He does such rounded people.
War and Peace is the book that stays with you, but I also love his very late fables. There are two unforgettable ones: He attained this perfect simplicity of expression towards the end, and he grew out of the novel. I don't think anyone else has ever done that.Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, and The Brothers Karamazov - Jordan B Peterson
You can learn more from Tolstoy than any other writer — but as a technician, not as a moralist. Thomas Keneally photographed in London in Photograph: Eamonn McCabe Tom Keneally Tolstoy is one of those annoying people of genius who performed in the 19th century the ultimate tricks that the rest of us are now stuck with trying to perform imperfectly and on humbler scale.
In War and Peace, he successfully depicted the public and national soul as incarnated in a vast array of individuals, and the novel tries, in a compelling way, to define the same unity amongst his characters. In Anna Karenina, by contrast, he deals with one doomed soul on an intimate, psychological level. Thus he is a super-Balzac and a Flaubert at the same time.
Is he the greatest novelist of all time? I think Dostoevsky is a fellow giant. Fortunately, literature is not like the Premier League or the Olympic m. Let's just say that Tolstoy is transcendent, and that we are grateful he lived long enough to endow us with his grand inheritance.
Eamonn McCabe What is extraordinary about Tolstoy is the way in which his imagination was never daunted. His world is large, and his characters have their own life, and are not his puppets — even the ones he set out to disapprove of, such as Anna Karenina.
His descriptions — of battlefields or mushroom-picking or meals — are full of exactly the right amount of idiosyncrasy and detail. He gives us more than enough information and still leaves space for the reader's imagination.
He is the only writer I am not bothered by reading in translation: I don't notice what I might be missing as he sweeps me along. Celebrating him, we should also celebrate Constance Garnett, who changed the English novel and the English reader by translating the great Russians. Murdo Macleod JM Coetzee calls Tolstoy the exemplary master of authority, by which he means, I think, that he makes us trust what he tells us.
Tolstoy or Dostoevsky? 8 Experts on Who's Greater - The Millions
This is all the more surprising since Tolstoy seems to speak freely, in his fiction, with the sort of moralistic-prophetic voice — the voice of a teacher of right and wrong — that lesser writers are obliged to use sparingly, unless they want to sound pompous and didactic.
While that is distinctive and remarkable, it's not what makes Tolstoy a great writer. Nor is it his tight focus on the three essential themes in narrative art, namely love, death and money.
What makes him stand out is his skill with the very cloth from which narrative is cut — time. His fictional places are in time, not space. His descriptions of landscapes and interiors are never merely descriptions and never merely symbolic; they are waypoints in a journey, burdens to be got rid of, obstacles to be overcome, lessons to be taken.
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More startlingly, he has the ability to do something that sounds easy but is in fact very difficult, namely to write about a moment — a man at the point of proposing marriage, a woman about to kill herself, a dissolute youth arriving in a frontier village — without any apparent consciousness of all the moments that have led up to that moment, or of all the moments that are about to come.
One of the greatest literary craftsmen?