16 November 2010

Remembering Tolstoy

Listening to the wonderful Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, talking with such a depth of knowledge and empathy about Tolstoy last night made me nostalgic for my schooldays. If only he had been my Russian teacher wouldn't I have worked harder at my Russian studies, instead of scraping through O level and failing to grasp the pain of being human in War and Peace? There's an essay about Tolstoy every night this week at 11 pm to celebrate the centenary of his death. Tonight it's the turn of his biographer AN Wilson. On Saturday November 20th, the actual date of the great man's death, I'll be discussing the Diaries of Sofia Tolstoy with AN Wilson at the Richmond Festival of Literature. As ever the question for biographers like me is: should we be examining the life to help us understand the work? As the Archbishop said, Tolstoy's fiction is Tolstoy explaining himself, pouring himself out in words. I'll go with the Archbishop on this one.

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