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Sophia Tolstoy: A Biography by Alexandra…
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Sophia Tolstoy: A Biography

by Alexandra Popoff

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Through the years and across cultures, many have tried to determine the secret of happiness. Literary giant Count Leo Tolstoy was one who thought he figured it out through a religious conversion to non-violence and poverty. Regarded as a genius, he had a strong following though it proved to be a bumpy road for him and his family. Which begs the question, does having special talents or gifts excuse the way you treat those you love? Are extraordinary suffering, nurturing, and affirmation necessary for remarkable success?

Immerse yourself in this well-written and researched biography and be astonished by Countess Sophia Tolstoy’s accomplishments in her lifetime despite overwhelming hostility, disapproval, and challenges. You will be swept away by a devoted wife and lover who spent 48 years worshipping Tolstoy. Everything she did was ultimately for him. The couple had a felicitous marriage until Tolstoy’s philosophical conversion in 1880. Although non-violence - the key to his new ideology - was accepted by Sophia, applying his uncompromising belief that owning property, living comfortably, and sexual behavior (even in marriage) were all sinful was inappropriate to their very deep love for each other and intolerable to raising a family. Read her story and weep.

Over the Tolstoys’ marriage of nearly a half century, she gave birth to thirteen children - raised them, educated them, disciplined and loved them. A strong, energetic woman of untiring faithfulness to her husband and children, she also managed the practical affairs and finances of the properties they owned, assisted in Tolstoy’s writing, copied his drafts over and over (yes, we’re talking War & Peace and Anna Karenina included), published many volumes of his works, entertained, nursed the sick of the family and village, fed the poor during the great famine, and oh… so much more. However, the most difficult burden for her was dealing with the complex nature of her husband and being criticized unfairly by him and his followers. I was shocked by how intimate they were as a couple (reading each other’s diaries), how vulnerable they became, how they unwittingly used their power to hurt to each other, and how close they both came to the edge of insanity.

Popoff's biography bears the task of setting the records straight. It's engaging and easy to read. What was the truth of the Tolstoy marriage and why are we just now finding out? Sophia’s own writings have been suppressed for years while the vicious attacks on her have permeated the literature. And now… I’m ready to read War and Peace – someday. ( )
9 vote -Cee- | Mar 25, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 141659759X, Hardcover)

As Leo Tolstoy’s wife, Sophia Tolstoy experienced both glory and condemnation during their forty-eight-year marriage. She was admired as the muse and literary assistant to one of the world’s most celebrated novelists. But when in later years Tolstoy became a towering public figure and founded a new brand of religion, she was scorned for her disagreements with him. And it is this version of Sophia—malicious, shrill, perennially at war with Tolstoy—that has gone down in the historical record.

Drawing on newly available archival material, including Sophia’s unpublished memoir, Alexandra Popoff presents a dramatically different and accurate portrait of the woman and the marriage. This lively, well-researched biography demonstrates that, contrary to popular belief, Sophia was remarkably supportive of Tolstoy and was, in fact, key to his fame.

Gifted and versatile, Sophia assisted Tolstoy during the writing of War and Peace and Anna Karenina. Having modeled his most memorable female characters on her, Tolstoy admired his wife’s boundless energy, which he called “the force of life.” Sophia’s letters, never before translated, illuminate the couple’s true relationship and provide insights into Tolstoy’s creative laboratory. Although long portrayed as an elitist and hysterical countess, Sophia was in reality a practical, independent-minded, generous, and talented woman who shared Tolstoy’s important values and his capacity for work. Mother of thirteen, she participated in Tolstoy’s causes and managed all business a airs.

Popoff describes in haunting detail the intrusion into their marriage by Tolstoy’s religious disciple Vladimir Chertkov, who controlled Tolstoy at the end of his life and led a smear campaign against Sophia, branding her evil and mad. She is still judged by Chertkov’s false accounts, which dismissed her valuable achievements and contributions.

During his later religious phase, Tolstoy renounced his property and copyright, and Sophia had to become the breadwinner. She published Tolstoy’s collected works and supported their large family. Despite the pressures of her demanding life, she realized her own talents as a writer, photographer, translator, and aspiring artist.

 

This vigorous, engrossing biography presents in fascinating depth and detail the many ways in which Sophia Tolstoy enriched the life and work of one of the world’s most revered authors.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:50:31 -0400)

Presents a different look at Leo Tolstoy's wife's from her unpublished memoir and reveals how the classic author's followers actively suppressed the truth about Sophia's dedication to her husband and his work.

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