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The Cossacks by Leo Tolstoy
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The Cossacks (1863)

by Leo Tolstoy (Author)

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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 |
Quick, wonderful read. Tolstoy's insights into another culture are poignant and relevant. This novel speaks much of the problems of the multinational Russian empire, and maintains its relevance in the modern era's issues of globalization. ( )
  pfax | Mar 3, 2008 |
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:00 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

This 1862 novel 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 fiance turns out to be a formidable opponent. Tolstoy examines two psychological problems. The first dilemma is that of a young man who desires both fulfilling love and a place as a respected member of society. The other is the difficulty of a primitive society to accept domination by a higher culture that has no understanding of the traditions it asks its colonists to cast aside.… (more)

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