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The Cossacks by Leo Tolstoy

The Cossacks (1863)

by Leo Tolstoy

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Olenin is a young, wealthy Russian man who has become a cadet in the army and is sent to a remote post in a Cossack village. He's glad to be leaving his past behind. In the village, he gets to know some of the people and likes their simple life. He eventually falls in love with a beautiful Cossack girl who is already engaged to be married to a Cossack warrior. The young man has to resolve his conflicts about whether to marry the girl and whether he can completely abandon his old life and live simply with the Cossacks.

This was a straightforward story told in a simple and clear way. There was quite a bit about the way of life for the Cossacks. It was only mildly interesting to me. ( )
  gaylebutz | May 9, 2016 |
The Cossacks is considered Tolstoy's best novel from his early years. Begun in 1853 and completed in 1862, after nearly 10 years of fits and starts, he was compelled to finish it after loosing badly at cards to pay the debt. The novel describes life among the martial Cossacks as seen through the eyes of a young Russian soldier stationed in a native village on the frontier. Descriptions of Caucuses geography and wildlife are the strongest part of the novel in my opinion, the story itself is slow and uneventful. The Cossack's are a clannish community and the outsider Olenin who tries to penetrate it with modest success discovers himself in the process. It's like Dances with Wolves where a soldier who is sent to subjugate and civilize on the frontier instead discovers indigenous wisdom and attempts to go native but finds in the end he can never fully cross over and returns a changed man. ( )
  Stbalbach | Apr 22, 2012 |
In this lovely and perceptive novella, the beauty of the Caucasus region, where, the Russians are fighting with the Chechens -- its mountains, streams, forests, and wildlife -- jumps off the page. Tolstoy also portrays the wilder, "simpler" lives of the Cossacks who live there, lives that seem so attractive to his somewhat naive protagonist, a young Moscow aristocrat, Olenin, who joins the Russian army largely as a way to keep himself from gambling, running up debts, and leading a dissolute life. (This, in fact, mirrors some of Tolstoy's own experiences as a young man.) He meets some of the local people, goes hunting, and then falls in love, or so he thinks, with the daughter of his landlord, who is also loved by one of the young Cossacks. One of the beauties of the book is that the reader simultaneously sees the world through Olenin's eyes and through the more experienced eyes of the author.
  rebeccanyc | Apr 14, 2010 |
One of Tolstoy's best short stories / novella.

Highly readable and exciting, I found this much more enjoyable than Tolstoy's other, more highly praised, Caucus novel "Hadji Murad". ( )
  DRFP | Feb 7, 2010 |
Is illustrated with scenes from the photoplay, a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production starring John Gilbert anfd Renee Adoree. Unfortunately also has some ink-type marks on foredge and corners of attractive dustwrapper.
  jon1lambert | May 2, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tolstoy, LeoAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Leclée, J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oliver, JonathanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Payarols, FrancescTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812975049, Paperback)

This 1862 novel, in a vibrant new translation by Peter Constantine, is Tolstoy’s semiautobiographical story of young Olenin, a wealthy, disaffected Muscovite who joins the Russian army and travels to the untamed frontier of the Caucasus in search of a more authentic life. While striving to adopt the rough and ready lifestyle of the local Cossacks, Olenin falls in love with a free-spirited girl whose fiancé turns out to be a formidable opponent. Showcasing the philosophical insight that would characterize Tolstoy’s later masterpieces, this long overdue translation is a revelation.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:38 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Olenin, a young Russian aristocrat finds himself as a Russian army officer, serving at a remote Cossack outpost in the Caucasus. Here among the Tatars, the Chechens, and the Old Believers, is the place where Olenin will find his love, a beautiful Cossack girl. The only problem is she is promised to a Cossack warrior.… (more)

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