Understanding Tolstoy

Andrew D. Kaufman


Literary Criticism/Russian & Former Soviet Union
322 pp. 6x9

$44.95 cloth 978-0-8142-1164-9
Add cloth to shopping cart

$14.95 CD 978-0-8142-9263-1
Add CD to shopping cart

$29.95 paper 978-0-8142-5240-6
Add paper to shopping cart

Shopping Cart Instructions
Review/Change Shopping Cart & Check-out

Table of Contents

Explore More
The author recommends the following links:

“Crime and punishment: Juvenile offenders study Russian literature,” from The Washington Post


“What pulled me to Understanding Tolstoy with enormous force were two things. First, Andrew D. Kaufman’s mastery of the whole Tolstoyan world, in both its artistic and critical texts, is quite impressive. I was particularly moved by the description of his experience at Tolstoy’s estate. Second, Kaufman is very personable as a writer, the kind you would like to get to know and talk Tolstoy with.” —Irwin Weil, professor emeritus, Slavic languages and literatures, Northwestern University

“Is there room for yet another book on Tolstoy? The answer is a resounding yes! Andrew D. Kaufman has something of his own to say about Tolstoy, and it’s worth listening to. The key word for describing Kaufman’s approach is relevance. He believes that reading Tolstoy can help us now, in the twenty-first century, to understand ourselves and the world. Kaufman’s conviction and convincing argument are admirable.” —Hugh McLean, professor emeritus, Russian literature, University of California, Berkeley

Understanding Tolstoy recreates Tolstoy’s lifelong artistic and spiritual journey, taking readers to the core of the writer’s world through nuanced close readings of his major novels and novellas. Andrew D. Kaufman’s broad and accessible analysis of Tolstoy’s work speaks to the ways in which Tolstoy, despite living in a manner far removed from the experiences of most modern-day Americans, is still applicable and contemporary.

From a reconstruction of Olenin’s search for truth in The Cossacks to an illuminating analysis of Hadji-Murat’s tragic last stand, Understanding Tolstoy brings to life the fascinating parallels between Tolstoy’s personal quest and his characters’ journeys. Whether writing about the ballrooms and battlefields of War and Peace or the spectrum of sexual and spiritual attachments in Anna Karenina, Tolstoy emerges as a vital, searching artist who continually grows and surprises us, yet is driven by a single, unchanging belief in universal human truths.

Understanding Tolstoy is a treasure trove of critical and philosophical insights that will appeal to Tolstoy aficionados of all kinds, from advanced scholars to undergraduate students. The book offers an eminently readable guide to those entering Tolstoy’s world for the first time or the tenth, and it invites them to grapple alongside the writer and his characters with the most urgent existential questions of our time, and all times.

Andrew D. Kaufman is lecturer and Academic Community Engagement Faculty Fellow in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, and Research Affiliate, Youth-NEX, the UVa Center to Promote Effective Youth Development, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia.