Children of the Century: For writers of historical fiction, fact fades and feeling persists. by Alexander Chee [New Republic] [more inside]
Four-day marathon public reading of War and Peace begins in Russia. [The Guardian]
A marathon four-day Russian public reading of Leo Tolstoy’s vast classic novel War and Peace kicked off on Tuesday morning, with more than 1,300 people in more than 30 cities preparing to make their contributions to the record-breaking project. Coordinated by Tolstoy’s great-great-granddaughter Fekla Tolstaya, and featuring a number of cultural luminaries including the Polish film director Andrzej Wajda, the readings are being streamed by Russian state television channel Kultura. One volume of Tolstoy’s fictionalised history of Russia during the Napoleonic campaign will be read each day.
The Fort of Young Saplings: Vanessa Veselka writes about family, the ownership of stories, and the meaning of military victory (or its absence) in the context of her father's adoption by the Kiks.ádi. (Veselka previously and previously, caution on the latter for sexual violence.)
Sofiya Tolstoy’s Defense [The New Yorker] In her own writings, Leo Tolstoy’s wife offered a rebuttal of the views that he set out in “The Kreutzer Sonata.” [more inside]
Here is a follow up to a previous post: An interview with AD Harvey, the man behind the Dickens meets Dostoevsky hoax. [more inside]
"But you have not told us a syllable about the greatest general and greatest ruler of the world. We want to know something about him. He was a hero. He spoke with a voice of thunder; he laughed like the sunrise and his deeds were strong as the rock and as sweet as the fragrance of roses. The angels appeared to his mother and predicted that the son whom she would conceive would become the greatest the stars had ever seen. He was so great that he even forgave the crimes of his greatest enemies and shook brotherly hands with those who had plotted against his life. His name was Lincoln and the country in which he lived is called America, which is so far away that if a youth should journey to reach it he would be an old man when he arrived..." [more inside]
Today is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Borodino, in which Napoleon's armies met Russian troops 75 miles east of Moscow on 7 September 1812. The huge battle, involving quarter of a million troops, was the strongest stand the Imperial Russian Army made against Napoleon's forces, and it resulted in heavy casualties on both sides. Although the Russian army withdrew, the French tactical victory in the Battle of Borodino was a Pyrrhic one, and Napoleon ultimately left Russia in defeat. The battle was reenacted at Borodino last weekend, as is done annually. A cultural symbol of Russian national courage, the Battle of Borodino has been famously commemorated in Russian literature, music, art, and poetry. [more inside]
Although many people would prefer a painless, instant death—no suffering, just lights out, quickly, permanently—others would have some variation of what seems to be Tolstoy's version of the good death: a conscious one, with acceptance of whatever comes. [more inside]
Picturing Books: What do we see when we read? (Other than words on a page.) What do we picture in our minds? A consideration by Knopf's senior designer Peter Mendulsund. [more inside]
An ever increasing accumulation of film stills from Sergei Bondarchuk's 8-hour long epic film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace [more inside]
Dear Leo, Dear Mohandas "The longer I live -- especially now when I clearly feel the approach of death -- the more I feel moved to express what I feel more strongly than anything else... the doctrine of the law of love unperverted by sophistries. Love... the highest and indeed the only law of life". The Kingdom of God Is Within You (full text available) is Leo Tolstoy's tractatus of "Christianity Not as a Mystic Religion but as a New Theory of Life", a primer of (among other things) the doctrine of non-violence. Among the many fans of the 1894 book was an imprisoned Hindu barrister, a "half-naked fakir" if you want, a certain Mohandas K. Gandhi who was fascinated by "the independent thinking, profound morality, and the truthfulness" of the book. So he ended up writing fan letters to the great Russian man: who warmly wrote back to his young Indian "friend and brother". The old wise Christian anarchist literary giant and the shy, insecure young man who sparked a revolution: to paraphrase another wise, badly-dressed , pacifist old man, "Generations to come, it may be, will scarcely believe that such men ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth."