Lev Nikolaevich (Leo) Tolstoy (1828–1910). A Russian novelist, reformer, and moral thinker.
Tolstoy was born at Yasnaya Polyana, the Tolstoy family estate a hundred miles south of Moscow, on August 28. He died on November 20 at a nearby railroad station, having fled in the night from an increasingly contentious marriage and a set of familial relationships that had been hardened in large part by Tolstoy’s attempts to apply his radical moral beliefs to his own life. In the intervening eighty-two years Tolstoy became perhaps the most prominent novelist in an age and place of great authors as well as a vociferous critic of science and modernization.
Tolstoy’s international fame rests primarily on two novels, War and Peace (1865–1869) and Anna Karenina (1875–1877). His fictional works also include short masterpieces such as “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” (1886), “The Kreutzer Sonata” (1889), and “Master and Man” (1895). In addition he wrote autobiographical accounts of his childhood (Childhood, Boyhood, Youth[1852–1857]) and his experiences as a soldier in the Crimean War (Sevastopol Sketches ).
With regard to issues of science, technology, and ethics Tolstoy’s most relevant writings include a variety of short, passionate non-fiction works, particularly “What I Believe” (1884), “What Then Must We Do?” (1887), “On the Significance of Science and Art” (1887), “What Is Art?” (1898), and “I Cannot Be Silent” (1908), all of which address a confluence of moral and intellectual errors he perceived in modern life and thought at the turn of the twentieth century.
The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience.
Like his contemporary Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821–1881), whom he never met, Tolstoy was broadly concerned with the spiritual future of the human race. He attempted to confront the gradual movement away from traditional values with an almost Aristotelian emphasis on the permanent relationships of things, promoting the universality of natural and religious values of love and labor to which he believed the human heart responds.
Although the West now knows him as the writer of large and perhaps infrequently read novels, his influence on writers and political dissidents such as Mohandas Gandhi (1869–1948) and Alexander Solzhenitsyn (b. 1918) has been enormous, and his thought provides resources for ethical assessments of science and technology that have not yet been explored fully.
All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
I sit on a man’s back, choking him, and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by any means possible, except getting off his back.
We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom. Nothing is so necessary for a young man as the company of intelligent women.
Kings are the slaves of history.
A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite.
And to act so is immoral.
What a joy it is to do a good deed! And this joy is strongest if no one knows that you have done it.
Mysterious language is not a sign of wisdom. The wiser a person is, the simpler the language he uses to express his thoughts.
Until they throw the money changers out of the temple of art, it will never be a real temple.
Religion and law try to escape from criticism, religion by saying that it is divine and law by showing that it is powerful.
Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself. Historians are like deaf people who go on answering questions that no one has asked them.