Read Great Short Works by Leo Tolstoy Aylmer Maude Louise Maude John Bayley Online


Of all Russian writers Leo Tolstoy is probably the best known to the Western world, largely because of War and Peace, his epic in prose, and Anna Karenina, one of the most splendid novels in any language. But during his long lifetime Tolstoy also wrote enough shorter works to fill many volumes. Here reprinted in one volume are his eight finest short novels, together withOf all Russian writers Leo Tolstoy is probably the best known to the Western world, largely because of War and Peace, his epic in prose, and Anna Karenina, one of the most splendid novels in any language. But during his long lifetime Tolstoy also wrote enough shorter works to fill many volumes. Here reprinted in one volume are his eight finest short novels, together with "Alyosha the Pot", the little tale that Prince Mirsky described as "a masterpiece of rare perfection."The Death of Ivan IlychThe CossacksFamily HappinessThe DevilThe Kreutzer SonataMaster and ManFather SergiusHaji MuradAlyosha the Pot...

Title : Great Short Works
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ISBN : 9780060586973
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Number of Pages : 720 Pages
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Great Short Works Reviews

  • El
    2019-02-17 11:45

    ETA: I'm a little confused by the number of reviews that claim these works aren't "short" as the title indicates. Have you read War and Peace or Anna Karenina? Those are loooong. These are short.Family Happiness (1859): A young girl falls in love with a much older man; the story follows their relationship from the start of their love, when things are always gooey-heart-shaped-eyeballs-for-each-other through their marriage, when Mashechka realizes that love and marriage isn't quite it's all cracked up to be. The Mountain Goats song by the same name took its title from the Tolstoy story and mentions Tolstoy in the song as well. (In case anyone else is nerdy about music and literary references like I am.)Cattiness! (Page 67):I recognized the voices: the speakers were the Italian marquis and a French friend of his whom I knew also. They were talking of me and of Lady S., and the Frenchman was comparing us as rival beauties... I was already a mother, while Lady S. was only nineteen; though I had the advantage in hair, my rival had a better figure.The Cossacks (1852-1862): Mr. Richy-pants, Dmitri Olenin, joins the Russian army in hopes to have some adventure because that's what Richy-pant types of people tend to do to give their life some meaning. In the middle of nowhere in the Caucasus he realizes that his previous standing means zippola - hello, wake-up call. Still, he falls in love with a Cossack girl despite the glaring differences in their social standing, but he has to contend with her fiance.What I learned: I wasn't familiar with the term abreks and had to look it up. In simple terms it seems they were your run-of-the-mill mountain bandits. In El-terms I like to think of them as Russian ninjas.The Death of Ivan Ilych (1886): To summarize: A high-court judge (Ivan Ilych) hangs some curtains one day, falls and hurts himself, and soon thereafter believes he is dying. The moral of the story: Go with Venetian blinds. Forget the curtains.If you think that's seriously the moral of the story you probably shouldn't be reading this review. In a nutshell, it's awesome. Please read it. All of you. It affected me in the same way reading Franny and Zooey affected me, for sort of the same reason. Which is funny because I'm not religious. At all.(Listed on the 1,001 Books to Read Before You Kick the Bucket list.)The Devil (1889): You know a story is going to be good when it starts out with a lengthy quote from the Bible. This story is about sex and eeeeviiiiil. Basically.More cattiness! (Page 306):It is generally supposed that Conservatives are usually old people, and that those in favour of change are the young. That is not quite correct. Usually Conservatives are young people: those who want to live but who do not think about how to live, and have not time to think, and therefore take as a model for themselves a way of life that they have seen.The Kreutzer Sonata (1889): Girls, if you're cheating on your boyfriend/husband and you think your boyfriend/husband has an inkling as to what is happening behind his back, do not gift him a copy of The Kreutzer Sonata for Christmas.Also, thanks to my buddy Alex for the reminder - it's extra great to read the latter portion while listening to the music.(Listed on the 1,001 Books to Read Before You Kick the Bucket list.)Master and Man (1895): A fantastic survival-in-the-snowy-Russian-woods kind of story and not at all about this even though they both feature the name Nikita.Father Sergius (1898): What do you do when you find out the day before your wedding that your fiancee is sleeping with the Tsar? You run off and become a monk, of course! But there's that whole temptation and doubt thing to contend with, yada yada yada. The story itself reminds me of one of the stories out of The Decameron actually, and I wonder if Tolstoy was paying homage.(From the film based on the story, 1918.)Hadji Murad (1904): Possibly one of the most intense stories I've ever read. It's like The Iliad but, y'know, Russian. Dude's cheek hangs off his face at one point, and he holds it in place with his hand while fighting with his other hand. Wicked crazy. I'm actually sort of speechless about this one. For some reason going into it I didn't think I'd enjoy it at all. Glad I didn't skip it. (Yeah, like I'm capable of doing that anyway.)Alyosha the Pot (1905): I can't believe I've never read this story before considering how short and sweet it is. (Okay, not exactly sweet.) Find it online and read it. Seriously, it's short and awesome.As a whole this collection rocked my face. I don't think there was a single story I didn't care for - even the ones I cared about less than the others are better than some other writers' entire oeuvre. What's nice about this collection is the stories/novellas are in order of publication date so you see the kind of writer Tolstoy was at the beginning and how his interests had changed over the years - particularly after his moral crisis and "conversion" in 1878.The Chronology in the back points out the years 1908-1909 as being especially important: "Quarrels of Tolstoy with his wife. Tolstoy keeps Secret Diary." Secret Diary? I'm there! Must. Find.I know I was pretty excited about Chekhov after reading The Portable Chekhov and all, but Tolstoy just kicked his ass.

  • Ted
    2019-02-07 16:43

    This is a tremendous collection of stories by Tolstoy. Don't be fooled, "short works" does not mean they are "short stories", rather they are more like novellas. Although the last story, Alyosha The Pot, is only seven pages long, the other eight stories consume over 650 pages - averaging over 80 pages.I read them all a few years ago and enjoyed every one of them. I would have to reread them to remember my favorites (which I may well do), but one that I remember particularly is Master and Man, about a well-off merchant and one of his laborers, who set out together in a horse-drawn sled on a winter afternoon, a couple hours before nightfall. "Half the sky was hidden by a lowering dark cloud. In the yard it was quiet, but in the street the wind was felt more keenly. The snow swept down from a neighboring shed and whirled about in the corner near the bath-house." What a mood setter!Besides the two stories already mentioned, the collection contains The Cossacks, Family Happiness, The Death of Ivan Ilych, The Devil, The Kreutzer Sonata, Father Sergius, and Hadji Murad. The translations are by Louise and Aylmer Maude, and there is an Introduction by John Bayley, who wrote The Order of Battle at Trafalgar, a book that contains many wonderful essays on Russian literature.

  • Paul
    2019-02-15 14:45

    This book is an excellent introduction to works of Tolstoy for anyone who is interested in the author but unsure if reading his lengthy novels is a worthwhile investment or to those who have read the novels and just want to see what else there is to Tolstoy. Having read the novels and religious/political works of Tolstoy first, this collection provided an enjoyable continuation of many of the same themes in a different format. The editor's choice of the selected stories and quality of translation are beyond criticism. The only thing it could benefit from is translation of foreign (mainly french) language used in the notes.

  • Tyler
    2019-02-01 10:53

    Do not buy this book. The Maude translation of Tolstoy's works is exceptionally bad. My rating is for the translation, not the merit of Tolstoy's stories. As best I can, let me rate them separately below:Family Happiness -- (*) -- I didn't care for this story because Tolstoy writes it from a female perspective, and he doesn't quite carry it off. This is an early work of his, an idealized portrait of how love and marriage might proceed.The Cossacks -- (***) -- A short work of about 120 pages asking whether someone from one culture can ever really "go native" in another. A little comic and sad, but with good natural descriptions and a study of the Cossack culture.The Death of Ivan Ilych -- (****) -- Tolstoy's best short work with an existentialist ring.The Devil -- (**) -- A man's sexual past catches up with him with a vengeance. This story was a little too short and thin for me.The Kreutzer Sonata -- (***) -- A well structured, controversial story using a frame narrative to describe of the failure of marriage in the 19th century, stemming from the terribly misplaced sexual attitudes of the time. The story traces out the disastrous consequences in the relations between one couple and really pulls readers in. Master and Man -- (***) -- A look at the relations between servants and those they serve.Father Sergius -- (***) -- A story of a nobleman's quest for authentic service to his fellow man. This story was much better than I expected.Hadji Murad -- (***) -- Tolstoy's best, a look at the life of Chechen warlord trying to go over to the Russians in a quest for vengeance. The story is one that will appeal to American readers for its wildness and bravado.Alyosha the Pot -- (**) -- Good story, but much too short.I bought this Perennial Classics collection because it had most of Tolstoy's best stories together between its covers. I advise others not to make the same mistake, and to read these stories in other books. Without belaboring the details, let me repeat that the translation is wretched. Again, do not buy this book.

  • Phyllis
    2019-02-10 16:33

    Pretty much, if you've read one of these stories, you've read them all. That's for the sweeping, underlying ideas: Tolstoy seems to have contempt for the French-speaking petit bourgeoise, the Russian Orthodox church, the medical profession, and, possibly, women. Any of these works (short works, NOT short stories) will give you a sense of the country before the revolutions at the beginning of the twentieth century. In fact, getting a sense of why there was a revolution would be a good reason to read these works.The individuals in these works are unhappy, pretty much in the same way, despite what Tolstoy said in the opening of Anna Karenina. All of them are self-absorbed and in search of happiness. Tolstoy seems to have the idea that they--and, presumably, by extention, we--would be a whole lot more content in life if they would just get busy and do good works. You know, stop studying our navels in search of Truth. Well, thank you very much for that insight, Leo.I'd read them for the details and the characters. Tolstoy has observed his fellow travelers in this world well and can show you how they tick. He understands envy, pride, even ambition and gives us very human people full of foibles. Unfortunately for the modern American reader, he also tends to present women as temptresses. ("It wasn't me: she made me do it.") Seemingly, men are helpless idiots in his world. I am unable to tell if this is what Tolstoy believed or simply how he feels women are viewed in nineteenth century Russia.You may find that Tolstoy sometimes does go on. And on. And on. Constant readers may not mind this. Others should stick to movies based on his works.

  • Brian
    2019-02-07 10:33

    This review is of the stories "Father Sergius", "The Devil", and "Alyosha the Pot". I'd read the other stories before in a separate collection which is also on a bookshelf here on goodreads. Of those stories, "The Cossacks", "The Kreutzer Sonata", and "Master and Man" rank among my favorite stories of all time both for enjoyment of the content as well as appreciation for their artistic boldness and creativity. Of the stories being reviewed here, "The Devil" and "Alyosha the Pot" were the better two of the three, particularly the latter in its almost Hemingway-esque brevity and subtle suggestiveness. It's only 5 pages long where a "short work" of Tolstoy can be anywhere from 50-200 pages. Yet, it was almost as profound as "The Devil" which, in spite of some of its long-windedness packs a philosophical punch at the end that leaves the reader dazed for at least a quarter of an hour, if not more. "Father Sergius" was a tad too moralistically sentimental for my taste: Tolstoy falls too often in the 19th century (although the story was written at the tail-end of it) trap of long-winded explanation as opposed to artistic demonstration. Yet, as dated as Tolstoy's style can be (speaking now of his writing as a whole), his ideas and insights are as fresh as if you'd thought them yesterday.

  • Brian
    2019-01-25 12:00

    Referring strictly to this particular edition: I speak only a lazy variation of the English language, so when I can tell that a translation is bad something is seriously wrong. I read only "Hadji Murad" and "The Cossacks". The stories themselves were strong enough to shine through, but the wording and syntax was so awkward that I just put the book down and decided to find better translations of the rest.

  • Nabilah
    2019-02-01 10:52

    He is an amazing writer. His short works are perfect introduction to his minds and to beginners alike. I definitely recommends Leo Tolstoy beginners to read his short works first before moving on to his major novels like Anna Karenina or War And Peace in order to get used to his style of writing.I enjoyed this purchase very much.

  • Tom
    2019-01-22 12:35

    a wonderful collection of short stories by the Master.

  • Banbury
    2019-01-18 17:54

    This is more of an essay than a review, and it discusses only one story in the collection.The Time of Ivan's LifeThe Death of Ivan Ilych both begins and ends with the death of its title character. In between, the story is told chronologically both backward and forward. At the beginning, his death is announced, his final days of illness and agony discussed, his colleagues and family members introduced, and his funeral accomplished. Time then shifts and there is an outline of the progression of his early years, his education, his early career, his marriage, and the raising of his children. As he graduates from school and leaves his father’s house, he is looking forward in time with anticipated success, as indicated when he buys a watch and has the fob inscribed with the Latin phrase, “respice finem” (“look to the end”) (p. 256). His later major career promotion and its concomitant relocation to a larger house and his care over its furnishing are set forth in greater detail, and the progress is both chronological and up the social ladder, represented concretely by the step-ladder he mounts to hang the curtains in his new house. However, it was that very step up that causes him to slip and bang his hip on a knob, leading to the injury that ultimately kills him. The top of that step-ladder represents the apogee of his success, and is the beginning of his physical decline. The chronology remains forward, as we follow the “progress of his disease.” (p. 273 ). Yet for Ivan Ilych, as his illness worsens, time also moves backwards:Pictures of his past rose before him one after another. They always began with what was nearest in time and then went back to what was most remote—to his childhood—and rested there.(p. 297). But contrary to what one might expect, the memories of his childhood are not pleasant ones for him. The memories are so “painful” that he would will himself back to the present—to contemplating the button on the back of the sofa. Id. But it is not that his childhood was bad that pained him, it was the recognition that he had lived his life poorly. He compares the progress of his life to the progress of his illness:Then again together with that chain of memories another series passed through his mind—of how his illness had progressed and grown worse. There also the further back he looked the more life there had been. There had been more of what was good in life and more of life itself. The two merged together. ‘Just as the pain went on getting worse, so my life grew worse and worse,’ he thought. ‘There is one bright spot there at the back, at the beginning of life, and afterwards all becomes blacker and blacker and proceeds more and more rapidly--in inverse ratio to the square of the distance from death,’ [footnote 1] thought Ivan Ilych.Id. Thus the concept of “progress” is made ironic—while it clearly means movement, it is not always clear in which direction one’s progress is leading. The “progress” of Ivan Ilych’s illness is leading him to death. However, Tolstoy’s seeming contradictions are not limited to one layer of meaning—Ivan Ilych’s impending death is what eventually leads him to a real (if brief) ability to live. The blending of the concepts of life and death were adumbrated in the phrase on his watch fob, the double meaning of “the end” that he was most likely unaware when he had it engraved, as well as the description of Ivan Ilych as “le phenix de la famille.” (p. 255). The phoenix, of course, is known not only for a splendid rising from the ashes, but also for the necessity of its death.Ivan Ilych also recoils from looking to the future, which he knows will bring him death. He tries to go on with his former activities that had once “screened” (p. 281) thoughts of death from him, but sooner or later, the pain in his side would gnaw at him, and he would once again be confronted with his own impending death. He simply refuses to accept it. He begins his final three days of profound pain with the words “I won’t!” (p. 301). With this, Ivan Ilych feels he is struggling against being pushed into a black bag, and terrified of the death he knows he cannot avoid. He believes his pain is caused by his inability properly to get into the black hole. He knows that difficulty is caused by his refusal to admit his life had not been lived properly. Finally, he feels struck in the chest and side, and the shock of that pain somehow allows him to admit about his life, “Yes, it was not the right thing.” Id. He then feels himself slipping into the black hole, and seeing a light at the bottom. Once again we find that it is not always clear in which direction Ivan Ilych is moving. Of course the black hole represents death, but just as clearly it represents a kind of rebirth, where there is a light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.[Footnote 2] Ivan Ilych uses the metaphor of a railway carriage to explicate the confusion of his direction:What had happened to him was like the sensation one sometimes experiences in a railway carriage when one thinks one is going backwards while one is really going forwards and suddenly becomes aware of the real direction.Id. But his insight is more than just that his life had been lived in the wrong way. He also found the right way; he had to repent his own bad acts, and try to make things better for others. He does this when he says he is sorry to his son and his wife, and waives them out of the room in order to spare them having to watch his agonies. He then looks for the pain, but no longer finds it. He looks for his accustomed fear of death, and it is gone. With his dying, he finds he has conquered death—“’Death is finished,’ he said to himself. ‘It is no more!’” (p.302). Ivan Ilych dies at the end of the story.The circular structure of this story means the end of the story brings us back to the beginning, and upon re-reading, we see the entire story is encapsulated in the first few paragraphs. Ivan Ilych’s death is announced during a break in a legal trial, where Ivan Ilych’s colleagues are socializing and relaxing, just as Ivan Ilych had done before his illness. When they hear of his death, they immediately think about how their own career appointments will be affected. Ivan Ilych had been no different:In the intervals between the sessions he smoked, drank tea, chatted a little about politics, a little about general topics, a little about cards, but most of all about official appointments.(p. 267, emphasis added). Having read the entire story, we now understand the terrible phoniness of the obituary. If his wife suffers “profound sorrow” (p. 247) at his death, we know it is only because she will be deprived of his salary. He was not her “beloved husband;” Id., rather, “she hated him.” (p. 270). [Footnote 3] His so-called friends feel put out by the obligation to attend his funeral. His closest friend is named Peter Ivanovich. The patronymic suggests he is in some sense the son of Ivan Ilych. Certainly he acts just as Ivan Ilych would have if their positions had been reversed. He does his duty, but when confronted with Ivan Ilych’s dead body, he refuses to admit that death has anything to do with him, and turns away:Besides this there was in that expression a reproach and a warning to the living. This warning seemed to Peter Ivanovich out of place, or at least not applicable to him. He felt a certain discomfort and so he hurriedly crossed himself once more and turned and went out of the door—too hurriedly…(p. 250). This scene reminds us of the passage where Ivan Ilych refuses to see how death is anything more than an abstraction set forth in the old syllogism that Caius is a man, men are mortal, therefore, Caius is mortal. Despite the logic, Ivan Ilych refuses to see his own mortality. He thinks that while it was right for Caius to die, for him, “little Vanya, Ivan Ilych, …it’s altogether a different matter.” (p. 280).Also like Ivan Ilych, Peter Ivanovich seeks to distract himself from thoughts of his own mortality by his usual distracting activities. After turning away from the dead body, he finds his colleague, Schwartz, in the next room. “The mere sight of that playful, well-groomed, and elegant figure refreshed Peter Ivanovich.” (p. 250). Schwartz is planning a card game, and does not see any reason for the death of Ivan Ilych to intrude upon his fun. The only reason Peter Ivanovich does not immediately join Schwartz, is that Ivan Ilych’s widow intercepts him, and he is obligated by duty to attend the funeral service. During the service, he kept himself from looking at the dead body, and refused to give in to “any depressing influence.” (p. 254). He is the first to leave the service, and he catches up with Schwartz and the card game. But while Peter Ivanovich thinks he is fleeing death, we know he cannot, and Schwartz’s name (it is German for “Black”) lets us know that the black bag is in Peter Ivanovich’s future, as it was for Ivan Ilych. Thus, although not in the narrative, we are aware that the story will repeat itself with Peter Ivanovich-- although it is not clear that Peter Ivanovich will find the final redemption at the end of his life.Footnote 1: A theory of relativity that we all understand as we get older.Footnote 2: That light is reminiscent of the “bright spot there at the back, at the beginning of life” (p. 297) that he was aware of when he contemplated his childhood. In this story, there is a certain identity between birth and death.Footnote 3: Lest we judge Ivan Ilych’s wife too harshly for her lack of sympathy for her husband, it should be remembered it was he who first failed to support her when she was pregnant, and found ways to avoid her when her needs interfered with his ease.

  • Edward Nugent
    2019-01-24 13:47

    In bite-sized chunks, the nine novellas in this book are a great way to gain an appreciation of Tolstoy's style, ideas, and ability to hone in on our human strengths and frailties. Innovative and controversial in his day, Tolstoy's themes still resonate well over a hundred years later. Hadji Murád is a message that is as important now as it was in the late 19th century. The Death of Ivan Ilych explores a live spent according to expected convention, only to ask, and answer the question—in the endwhat is the meaning of life? Each story is beautifully told and thought provoking. His characters are vivid and alive—archetypes of human kind.My only criticism of this volume is that it could stand some good copy editing, but for the price, that is a small complaint.

  • Kris Newman
    2019-01-21 15:43

    Below is a review I wrote for in 2003. I think it sums up my thoughts on Tolstoy quite nicely! - KrisTolstoy? Timeless!What Men Live ByBy Kris A. NewmanNovember 3, 2003In an age where we are inundated with information, sometimes it’s hard to remember what the nitty-gritty of Christianity is all about—is it found in worship? Is it found in Bible memorization? Is it found in hearing the best preacher? Isn’t there someone who can tell us the simple rules that men ought to live by?Actually, the simple lesson has been found. Count Leo Tolstoy wrote it many years ago in his novella and short story collection entitled What Men Live By and Other Tales.It begins with What Men Live By, where we find an angel named Michael, disobedient to the plan of God, has fallen to earth and relies upon the mercy of a simple peasant family. Michael is assigned three lessons to learn—what dwells in man, what is not given to man, and what men live by. Unwittingly, the peasants and their neighbors teach him the answers.Woven through this beautiful allegory of giving is a sense of common beauty. The beauty of family life and community breathe through every chapter. Tolstoy’s characters live simply, unburdened by the traps of possessions. They have one another. They have their work. They have God. What else could they need? They are not oblivious to the grand riches of the wealthy around them. Rather, they are satisfied with the richness of their relationships.The first lesson is learned when the peasant looks beyond his own discomfort to share his coat and clothes with Michael as he suffered by the wayside. The peasant’s wife, likewise, has pity on Michael. They feed him, clothe him, and give him work. Their kindness teaches Michael that love is what dwells in man.A year later, a verbose, obnoxious wealthy man demands that Michael make him a pair of boots from a specially tanned piece of hide. The rich man threatens that Michael will not be paid for the work unless the boots last for an entire year as if they were new. Michael, however, sees the death angel hovering near the rich man. He knows that God is about to take the man’s life. Carefully, he cuts and stitches the leather into a very fine pair of slippers. While the confused peasant is reprimanding Michael for wasting the gentleman’s materials, a messenger enters to tell them the gentleman perished before arriving home. They will need burial slippers instead. Thus, it was learned that it is not given to man to know what he needs. One must rely upon God for his needs to be met.Several years pass before the final lesson is learned. Through the telling of a sad story with a rich ending, we learn that men live by love for another.I John 4:20 tells us, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (I John 4:20). Tolstoy is clearly teaching this lesson in What Men Live By. This thought is exemplified by the last line of the story, “All men live not by the thought they spend on their own welfare, but because love exists in man.” When we learn to give, we discover a new depth in God and the relationship He has with us.Continuing on this theme, Tolstoy moves on to “Three Questions,” the story of a king who seeks to find the answers to these questions—“What is the most important thing to do? Who is the most important person? When is the most important time?” The answers are found when the king becomes actively engaged in helping others. The busier the king is about giving, the happier and safer his life becomes.“The Coffee House of Surat” explores thoughts of spiritual prejudice and misconception. A discussion of religiosity introduced by a bitter, deceived man causes a disruption in the coffee house. Finally, a student of Confucius quietly addresses the crowd. He likens God to the sun and man’s ideas of God to their ideas of the sun. He concludes that the more learned a man becomes about the subject of God, the more he realizes how big God is, how small man is; He points out that our relationship with God should draw us closer to one another and never cause us to become haughty.Finally, the Devil presents himself to a man who is overcome with greed in “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” Driven to succeed, Pahom continues seeking after the elusive perfect piece of land. Finally, the title question is answered—six feet deep by six feet long. That’s all you have in the end.It is common knowledge that the great Russian author was a wealthy landowner. How, then, could he write about peasant life, and why would he choose peasant life as his recurring subject in this book? (After all, he did write War and Peace.)However, Tolstoy had a spiritual awakening of some sort in his later years. Realizing his need of people rather than riches, he denounced the money he made, freed his serfs, and worked among them as an equal. Thus, his teachings relating to Christianity flow from a forgiven heart.Although rife with historical intricacies, the substance of Tolstoy’s teaching is timeless. Likewise, the opium drink in the coffee house was a common thing in Tolstoy’s day and certainly not allowable today. However, coffee houses still brew conversations and discussions as meeting places for bright minds.Tolstoy is worth reading. Just don’t start with War and Peace. Start with his short story collections. You need go no© 2003, Kris Newman

  • Abe Moses
    2019-02-14 13:48

    An amazing collection of his work. Absolutely loved every minute of it. Huge fan. Diehard fan of his work. A wonderful collection of extremely important works. A word master. Highly Recommended. The Death of Ivan is one of my personal favorites. If you love classic literature then this is a must.

  • David Landy
    2019-02-16 13:38

    I read The Kreutzer Sonata, a short story about a man who murders his wife. It is written with remarkable clarity and depth of insight into the man's thoughts. I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite the macabre plot.

  • Kyle K
    2019-01-28 15:59

    Family Happiness - The Cossacks - The Death of Ivan Ilych - The Devil - The Kreutzer Sonata - Master and Man - Father Sergius - Hadji Murád - Alyosha the Pot -

  • Dia
    2019-02-13 10:34

    I'm not sure how to review a collection of stories. Am I commenting on the stories themselves, or on the editors' choices -- which stories they included, the value of the Introduction, and other such choices? So I've mixed all such considerations together and pulled four stars out of my furry ushanka hat. One factor that diminished my rating is simply the poor quality of the print in this particular book. The ink is thick and blobby on many of the rather flimsy pages. I shouldn't have been so cheap in purchasing Tolstoy's great short works -- I will want to own these works for my lifetime, and I'm sure you will too, so don't skimp like I did. On the other hand, perhaps it is more fitting to not get the deluxe edition of Tolstoy's great short works. Surely Hadji Murad did not spend his rubles on fancily bound books. It was nothing in Ivan Illyich's library that redeemed him in his last minutes. And likewise, both "Master" and "Man" were able to act out of truth not because of a treasured book they'd owned but because of...divine inspiration? Sudden insight into their own and others' true nature? An abrupt shifting of perspective away from small self to vastness? However one wishes to phrase it, these heroes of Tolstoy's great short works didn't do their pivotal acts out of intellectual understanding; more importantly, they didn't do them out of habit; and most importantly, Tolstoy somehow actually isn't moralizing about all this, at all. -- Or, if he is, he somehow gets away with it, without alienating moralizing-phobic readers like myself. Perhaps its a sign of our degenerate times that we would even need such stories as these to contemplate, in order to be closer to truth. But we do -- there is so much nontruth pulling at us, screaming for our attention, pleading with us to accept and repeat its litanies. We certainly don't need to develop peasant-envy, but we do need to let ourselves get as close as we can stand to be to what is certain and what is fresh about being alive. It's evident that Tolstoy longed to be as close as he could be to life, and that he must have contemplated the essential truths of life (that we keep going for pleasure and trying to avoid pain, that we get sick, that we die) consistently for many years, all the while not missing out on any of the details that make those truths flesh and blood. So to read his stories (especially the three I referenced above -- there are a couple stories in this collection that I can't rave about) is to sort of have someone do the work for you -- he lays bare the condensed fruit of his contemplations (now that's a weird mixed metaphor, but I can't think of how other to say it). We just sit in bed or wherever and read his work, which seems very second-hand -- but actually, reading these stories isn't painless. Ivan Illyich is not for hypochondriacs! Master and Man is not for the judgmental, and Hadji Murad is not for sissies. So gather your courage, open your mind, do spend money on a nice copy, and read your Tolstoy!

  • Lb Song
    2019-02-03 12:37

    The marvel of Tolstoy is his instinctive grasp of the desperate choices humans face in life.He has an uncanny skill in both portraying our ability to love and hate, as well as our motivations and fears. When reading his stories, I often feel myself completely succumbing to his world, as if I’ve known the characters my whole life. The deep emotional and intellectual resonance of his works stay with me long after I close the pages.Such a work is The Death of Ivan Ilych, a short story published in 1886.In it, the reader can see the roots of the moral questions that Tolstoy himself will wrestle with his whole life. The primary question being: what is a good life?For Ivan Ilych, he had answered this question by leading a life that was, “the most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible”. A dutiful Russian bureaucrat, his navigated life by relying on the good sense of society to decide what was proper. His chief pleasure came from a sense of his own power over inferiors, and secondary pleasures from playing bridge and indulging in bourgeoisie tastes at home.Yet throughout this innocent ascendance in social position, there were cracks that betrayed a denial of the truth underneath the life of “legality, correctitude, and propriety”. The truth at last manifested itself in the form of physical and psychological pain, plaguing him endlessly and making life more miserable than death. Faced with this curse and sensing death’s close presence, Ivan Ilych began to wonder, “What if my whole life had been wrong?”.Ilych looked backed at his life, and realized suddenly, “all that for which he had lived- and saw clearly that it was not real at all, but a terrible and huge deception which had hidden both life and death. This consciousness intensified his physical suffering tenfold.”The book ends without answering the question of what is the right life, and the only clue the reader is left with is the fresh and sunny image of Gerásim, a peasant in Ilych’s household. Gerásim alone sympathized with his master’s pain. Yet, his simple nature was unperturbed by the thought of death, and presumably his close relationship with nature allowed him to view it as a natural cycle.In Gerásim’s character, one can see Tolstoy’s admiration for the life-affirming powers of the countryside, which is echoed in Anna Karenina and other works.Tolstoy peeled back the layers of ordinary life to remonstrate against its lack of meaning, but because he was just as human as his characters, he could not show the path to a correct life. He leaves us with the image of Ivan Ilych screaming during his last days in anguish, encapsulating a hidden existential malaise that Tolstoy would struggle with his whole life.

  • Jackal
    2019-02-16 12:55

    I'm not sure how to review the book as a whole, being a collection of short stories, but I do have some things to say of it. Well, particularly about Tolstoy, which is important to the types of stories that he writes. I think that Tolstoy is rightly recognized worldwide for his profound philosophies and practices. He plays a key role in the development of "Christian anarchism," and strongly believed in nonviolence, most specifically and especially when it came to his beliefs concerning Jesus Christ's teachings. He wrote a book expressing this philosophy in a work titled, "The Kingdom of God is Within You." The book had such a profound impact on Mahatma Gandhi that he sought Tolstoy out so as to be in his presence. Tolstoy's examples were radical enough that he was exiled from his Russia, his home country. Tolstoy was born into a wealthy family but he chose to live as a homeless man and share his money with the poor. The short stories in Great Short Stories each present several things to consider or ponder, and I find that Tolstoy presents his characters to be so real that often times the things I read were deeply disturbing simply for their humanity and the truthfulness behind them. The first short story, "Family Happiness," was perhaps my favorite, and I think everyone should read it even if not the rest of the book. (Goodness, ALL the titles are really boring titles! But entertainment is not the goal of the stories. Though they are not boring, they are intense, but not in a story-like way, if that makes sense.) It is, also, and kind of unfortunately, the most light hearted of the stories. I think that if one enjoys focus on expanding one's mind, that this would really be a good book to read, religious or not. Tolstoy was religious, most of his characters often pray, and there is habitual and culturally realistic reference to "the Lord" and religion throughout the stories, but to those that do not believe in Christ, that has very little to do with the purposes. I liked the book, though I did not always enjoy it. It was easy reading in terms of phrasing, complex reading in terms of concepts (if you take the time to consider them). Tolstoy has a pleasant writing style (though it has been translated from the Russian language, which is also something to consider), and a breathtakingly PROFOUND way of presenting people and their thoughts and feelings. I really do recommend this book, especially to those that pursue wisdom. Not necessarily to just "take from" Tolstoy, but at least to consider one's place in reference to them.

  • Blayze Hembree
    2019-02-06 16:00

    i mostly enjoyed the read. there were a few things that concerned me about this text. first, like some reviewers have said, this collection was put together posthumously and in no way shows cohesion. it does in some way demonstrate a progression as these are tolstoy's popularized short fiction works in chronological order beginning with 'family happiness' in 1859 and ending with 'alyosha the pot' in 1905. the distance in time is all too obvious to notice while reading the stories through, and while some readers of this fine writer may enjoy encountering an evolution of style in prose, i found it most dissatisfying. second, 'hadji murad' and 'father sergius' both contain french dialogue, but neither story has endnotes with a clarified translation for readers who do not speak french. hadji murad's own language, tartar, is somewhat explained after the conclusion of the story, but i am almost lead to believe that was tolstoy's inclusion. third, the print is not so great, which can only be understood under close examination. fourth, one thing that caused me a little discomfort was the page after the bibliography, which is titled, "About the Author" and it says: "Leo Tolstoy was born in 1828. He died in 1910, having written some of the most timeless works in all of literature, including War and Peace and Anna Karenina". I can't think of how that two sentence addendum could have possibly glorified tolstoy. it wasted a page, that otherwise would have been better had it just been a blank white page added to the book, because let's face it, if you've read the short stories you already know what his two major works are, and something so brief could have easily been added to the introduction or whatever the editor might want, but this short page in the back, just makes me cringe. all that said, i love his stories.

  • Tyler Massaro
    2019-01-23 11:33

    Kreutzer Sonata (4/5)The Death of Ivan Ilych (5/5)

  • Jacob
    2019-02-04 16:54

    My exposure to Russian writers until a year ago was limited to Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky which I found to be painfully slow and grossly dark. Recently our book club read Fathers and Sons by Turgenev which was pretty good and gave me a little more hope. So I decided to finally pick up the short works of Tolstoy off my shelf expecting something somewhere in between Turgenev and Dostoevsky but instead was absolutely delighted to find a master at work with his own unique style. "Cossacks", "Master and Man", and "Hadji Murad" were among some of the best novellas I have read although I enjoyed all the stories in this volume. The imagery is absolutely on key for the stories I named and though there is often a moral touch it is never over done. I wish I could express myself more clearly, but if all the stories had been of the caliber of the above then this book would have easily been 5 stars. Check it out if you have the time--I don't think you will be disappointed.

  • Julie
    2019-02-13 11:48

    This week I attempted to read from Tolstoy and began with the first story in this book called "Family Happiness". Though I rated it "ok", it did have lots to think about. It showed quite the contrast between the joy of exciting romance and falling in love to the more long-lasting love that suffers long and is kind. I couldn't really decide if I liked it or not. It is the story of a girl--happy when young and in love, getting caught in the social traps of the world and the unhappiness that it brings, to finally decide that love doesn't have to be wild and exciting but can be love with constancy and enjoyment of the simple things in life. It is sad to see people waste their life and time in sin, but good to get it back by repenting.

  • Alice
    2019-01-23 14:51

    I had never read much Tolstoy before taking a course dedicated to him last quarter. I had heard equally great and horrible things about his works, but after taking the course and reading this collection of shorts, I realized that most people read only his novels. And though his novels are great (I recently finishedAnna Karenina ), his shorts deserve to be read and judged separately from his novels. I greatly recommend this collection of short stories to a person who has not read Tolstoy before, and who is intimidated by the fearsome length of his novels! It is completely possible to understand Tolstoy's philosophy and genius when only reading the shorts!

  • Rachel
    2019-01-27 17:00

    i was in the bookstore deciding between "War and Peace" and a collection of short stories. I wimped out on War and Peace in favor of what i thought would be more digestible short stories. While the stories themselves are interesting and typical Tolstoy themes, the translation is so poor i can only give this version three stars. I've had to put the book down, the language is very difficult to muddle through and unfortunately is distracting. I would very much like to revisit a better translation, hopefully the excellent translating team of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

  • Rob
    2019-02-09 10:38

    I love short stories. These were good, but not as good as I was hoping for after reading War and Peace. Tolstoy is so good at dedicating stories towards something of moral consequence and these short stories are no different. I can, however, only handle so many consecutive treatises on humanity and human nature if they aren't carefully concealed in a gripping plot. These, sad to say, really were not.

  • Joe
    2019-01-20 17:55

    Comment:Hadji Murad, which was written towards the end of his life, is the greatest example of heroic epic since the death of Homer! Note that Tolstoy is writing this poem of heroism two decades after becoming a Christian pacifist. Indeed, this single story filled him with such unease that, in a conversation with Gorky (I believe), he referred to it as an 'indulgence'! Even the indulgences of this man will be exalted throughout the Ages!

  • Rick
    2019-01-26 13:55

    I've been reading these stories on and off for a while now, and I finally finished the last one today. I would absolutely recommend them to anyone, and I think it's quite difficult not to appreciate (and really enjoy) Tolstoy's matter-of-fact style of writing. He was amazingly intuitive about the Chechnyan situation in Hadji Murad, and I have always enjoyed his take on kings and leaders. All of the stories are good and worth reading, but I think Master and Man was my favorite.

  • Natalie Bird
    2019-02-15 14:39

    This is a fantastic collection both if you've never read Tolstoy, or if you're a seasoned fan. The Kreutzer Sonata is by far my favorite, though the Death of Ivan Ilych and Family Happiness are not far behind. Tolstoy always manages to write in a manner that makes you surprised this was the 1800's and not yesterday. However, as others have mentioned, this is akin to a "Greatest Hits" album, more than a cohesive collection of similar stories.

  • Robert
    2019-01-31 17:31

    Some of the most memorable stories I have read in this volume of short works, "The Death of Ivan Illich", "Father Sergius", "Family Happiness" all there. Some of these stories come back to me frequently triggered by every day occurrences. They are very definitely answers to what Tolstoy thought life was all about.

  • Janetrev
    2019-02-13 10:38

    When I was younger I didn't appreciate Tolstoy and found him heavy-handed in his morals. Now, as I read more of his works, his morals also have clearly been refined as he got older. I am now on the last novella, Hadji Murad, which I am enjoying very much. It ties in nicely with his earlier works on the Crimean War.