Reading Schopenhauer does things to one’s imagination: On Tolstoy's 185th Birthday in 2013

9 September 1828, 185 years ago, the master of realistic fiction Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was born on his family’s estate Yasnaya Polyana, 180 miles south of Moscow.
“There is something I love even more than the Good: fame.” (Leo Tolstoy, Diaries)

Tolstoy in May, 1908, four months before his 80th birthday
(photographed at Yasnaya Polyana by Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky;
the first colour photograph taken in Russia, quoted from wikipedia)

Reading Schopenhauer does things to one’s imagination. After reading “The World as Will and Representation”, Tolstoy was never the same again and the author of the already published masterpieces “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina” turned prophet. Tolstoy’s latest phase of disorientation ended, he became a vegetarian, quitted smoking and strong drink and committed himself to champion good causes like social reforms, famine relief and publishing relentlessly about religion and education, the former earning him an excommunication from the Orthodox Church, the latter a reputation as publisher of a primer from which Russian children learned their letters well into the 1930s and being a paragon for alternative methods of learning and Free Schools like Summerhill.

Tolstoy in 1848 at the age of 20 - way to go to become...

It was a long way that took the princes’ scion from juvenile gambler to dashing artillery officer, anarchist, at least as an acquaintance of Proudhon, Krapotkin and Bakunin and internationally acclaimed author to become the white-bearded advocate of the humiliated and insulted, dressed day in day out in simple peasant’s garb and constantly worrying his wife and the Tsar’s Secret Police – one of their minions stated that Tolstoy’s fame was too great for Russia’s prisons to ever hold it. Tolstoy was indeed celebrated as a star author already during his lifetimes, especially abroad and the publication of “War and Peace” secured his position as crème de la crème of literary realism, ironically enough, since Tolstoy saw his own work as the frame for a socio-political discourse and not as fictional belles-lettres.

... to become the man Ilya Repin depicted in 1891: “Portrait of Leo Tolstoy in His Study” 

And coquetting with the simple life while having the vast estates of Yasnaya Polyana and his authors royalties in the background, his conviction for brotherly love, charity, nonviolence and a religiously inspired anarchism was genuine enough to inspire many, like Gandhi, to do good and his literary heritage is flawless in Tolstoy’s precise and multi-layered characterisations, coherent plots in novellas as well as in full-grown three-decker novels and his idea to write them as lessons are hardly noticeable as they seldom are when one of the greatest storytellers of world literature commits his imagination as well as his beliefs to paper.

And more on: