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Childhood, Boyhood, Youth by Leo Tolstoy

Childhood, Boyhood, Youth (1856)

by Leo Tolstoy

Other authors: Fainna Solasko (Translator)

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Showing 5 of 5
This is an instance where, I think, translation matters. I checked this book out electronically from my library--the only copy in the entire system--and realized too late that it was a Barnes & Noble production with an anonymous translator. In the preface, in fact, the translator spoke of Tolstoy as being alive, so I imagine this was translated during the author's lifetime! I have a sense that if I'd read the newer translations, I'd have gotten even more out of this. That being said, Tolstoy's genius was evident even in this fragmentary, very early work. His description of nature and natural phenomenon is second to none. His complex and deep character descriptions (rather than characterization, which I don't think had truly reached its full flower here) transfixed me, and I copied down many examples for later study. It ends abruptly, of course, because it was meant to be a much longer work, and there is, frustratingly, an entire section that the translator merely reports was not included in the original Russian. I have no idea if this means it was lost or never written. ( )
  bookofmoons | Sep 1, 2016 |
Though not called a "memoir," Tolstoy's trilogy [Childhood, Boyhood, Youth] is based on himself. It is his first published work and it is a joy to read. The boy, Nikolai Irten'ev, retells his childhood from about the age of eight to seventeen. It is not, however, the 'boy' telling the story, but his older, more mature (about 24 - Tolstoy's age when he wrote it) self who narrates with such astuteness and clarity the feelings of young boy angry at his tutor, the shame he feels when a complimentary poem he writes for his grandmother's name-day feels like a falsehood, and the contradictory thoughts and feelings of an adolescent who is vain, snobbish and self-involved, yet sensitive and easily offended. The tone of the narrative is so well-balanced, that the reader comes to truly like Nikolai, despite his sometimes inane and thoughtless actions, because of the insight of his narrator-self. One would have liked the story to continue to the point where we see this more empathetic and insightful Irten'ev come into being. In some ways, the narrative reminds me of Turgenev's novella "First Love," also the story of an adolescent retold from the perspective of a much older, wiser man. While Turgenev's story is a masterpiece as well, there is something so honest and unforced (the power of a great artist) about Tolstoy's early work that makes it refreshing to read.

Another wonderful thing about these novellas is the description of how the Russian landed classes lived, how they interacted with their peers and with their subordinates, how they interacted with the opposite sex, what was thought 'comme il faut' and how important propriety was to this society. There is something a little 'Jane Austenish' about it. ( )
  Marse | May 8, 2015 |
A tender, sensitive book, and partly autobiographical - but only partly.

Tolstoy had a difficult childhood, and at this time in his life, after seeing the Crimean War, and having been through so much - a difficult childhood, with both parents dying young, we see both the intense frustration he has with the world, but also his sensitivity and goodness - his ability to understand people, which so colors the rest of his work. It is partly his own life shown here, but also the childhood he wished he had. He paints these innocent scenes so well that one can recognize their own self in it - or is that just me, with my delusions of grandeur of being like him in some way?

In any case, a very good book. Recommended for Tolstoy fans, as well as anyone reminiscing about childhood. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
This purports to be fiction but supposedly it is autobiographical. One can see why Tolstoy would not hold it forth as autobiography, since the narrator is an annoying and unlikeable person, who does stupid and gauche things repeatedly. But one can see that Tolstoy is an able writer, even in this early work, published in 1852 and 1856. I cannot say I enjoyed it greatly, but after finishing it I was glad to have read it and felt the time spent reading it was worthwhile ( )
  Schmerguls | Jul 22, 2009 |
Difficult to rate as I read a sickly-sweet Finnish translation, so I'll give it a three as it clearly can't be quite as bad as it seemed. In any case this early Tolstoy work was originally published part by part with the third publication combining _Childhood_ and _Boyhood_ with _Youth_, the final part. _Youth_ is by far the strongest work in this trilogy, the only part that made me think this really is Tolstoy. The two earlier parts, which made me gag and retch and angry enough to want to slap Tolstoy, appear to have more clarity and taste in the Maude translation this edition refers to, but I doubt even a good translation can completely negate the general dullness of them. ( )
  vaellus | Jun 6, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Leo Tolstoyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Solasko, FainnaTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140441395, Paperback)

The artistic work of Leo Tolstoy has been described as 'nothing less than one tremendous diary kept for over fifty years'. This particular 'diary' begins with Tolstoy's first published work, "Childhood", which was written when he was only twenty-three. A semi-autobiographical work, it recounts two days in the childhood of ten-year-old Nikolai Irtenev, recreating vivid impressions of people, place and events with the exuberant perspective of a child enriched by the ironic retrospective understanding of an adult. "Boyhood and Youth" soon followed, and Tolstoy was launched on the literary career that would bring him immortality.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:43 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Leo Tolstoy embarked on 'Childhood, Boyhood, Youth' in his early 20s. Though he later regarded his first published sketches as an 'awkward mixture of fact and fiction', they provide a highly expressive self-portrait which makes clear the man and the writer Tolstoy was to become.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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