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Childhood; Boyhood; Youth (Penguin Classics)…
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Childhood; Boyhood; Youth (Penguin Classics) (original 1852; edition 2012)

by Leo Tolstoy (Author), Judson Rosengrant (Editor)

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1,0201016,458 (3.75)20
Begun in 1851, when Tolstoy was twenty-three and serving as a cadet in the Russian army, Childhood, the first part of Tolstoy's first novel, won immediate praise from Turgenev and others, and marked Tolstoy's emergence as a major writer. Its originality was striking, as Tolstoy sought to communicate with great immediacy the "poetry" of childhood--the intense emotions, confusions, and fears attendant upon a young boy, Nikolenka, as he grows up. In the years following, Boyhood and Youth appeared (a fourth volume was planned but never executed), each replete with psychological and philosophical subtleties hitherto unknown in Russian literature. In Scammell's resplendent translation, Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth remains one of Tolstoy's major works.… (more)
Member:tagallant
Title:Childhood; Boyhood; Youth (Penguin Classics)
Authors:Leo Tolstoy (Author)
Other authors:Judson Rosengrant (Editor)
Info:Penguin Classics (2012), Edition: 1, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
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Childhood, Boyhood, Youth by Leo Tolstoy (1852)

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
The funny thing about “Childhood/Boyhood/Youth” is that it’s a comedy; Tolstoy didn’t write a lot of comedy. Actually it’s very simple comedy, without even a romance. I define comedy as being the kind of story where there’s little plot/drama, as opposed to drama, where there’s more. In drama there’s conflict; there’s blood, whether it’s controversy about countries or individuals, or even just pairs. In comedy less happens, even in adventure comedy like the Narnia books, but it’s not gritty and horrible and realistic, grim. Romantic comedy has some plot, but it troubles you only in stirring you around. Simple, observational comedy can be somewhat realistic, the way that “Seinfeld” or “White Teeth” can be said to be less like fantastic adventure than they are like it. I suppose it all depends on how you see things; some people think that romcom flicks don’t glamorize Hollywood, right. Anyway, it should probably be added that “comedy” for me doesn’t necessarily mean literally “funny”, as in laughter, especially since I often don’t laugh when other people do; it’s all too interesting. And anyway, people don’t always literally laugh along with laugh tracks; sitcoms are just relaxing because they’re possibly less threatening than a ham and cheese sandwich is, (depending on your opinion of factory farming, that is, which will Never appear on a sitcom, not even as a joke).

Anyway, Tolstoy didn’t write much comedy; all three major novels of his are dramas. “Anna Karenina” is personal drama; it’s about individual people, but it’s not meant to be Austen where we can’t be bothered about most things because it’s so light. It’s personal crisis drama if you think it’s an “Anna” book, and personal fulfillment drama, work life balance, if you think it’s a “Levin” book. There are romances, (like there are in horror movies), but comedies don’t end in death or religion. “War & Peace” and “Resurrection” are the even more distinctive social drama; the former being about a war and a nation, and the latter being about religion and politics.

But “Childhood/Boyhood/Youth” is a comedy, like a slew of “Seinfeld” episodes or a half-finished “White Teeth”. Not a whole lot happens. Tolstoy hated all his books because they’re more like Victorian TV than scriptures, but he really must have hated this one, if he ever thought about it. I’m not quite as puritanical, but I can see what he was driving at; it uses up your time without changing your life. Speaking as a non-historian, there’s nothing, I think, that you can learn from “Childhood/Boyhood/Youth” that you couldn’t learn from another book. All happy families are alike.
  goosecap | Jun 15, 2021 |
Sociale, melodrammatico, stimolante e veritiero sulla questione che scriviamo su un diario il nostro cambiamento ma non si sa che il giorno dopo sarà un tormento! ( )
  Ste1955 | Apr 24, 2019 |
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 |
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Begun in 1851, when Tolstoy was twenty-three and serving as a cadet in the Russian army, Childhood, the first part of Tolstoy's first novel, won immediate praise from Turgenev and others, and marked Tolstoy's emergence as a major writer. Its originality was striking, as Tolstoy sought to communicate with great immediacy the "poetry" of childhood--the intense emotions, confusions, and fears attendant upon a young boy, Nikolenka, as he grows up. In the years following, Boyhood and Youth appeared (a fourth volume was planned but never executed), each replete with psychological and philosophical subtleties hitherto unknown in Russian literature. In Scammell's resplendent translation, Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth remains one of Tolstoy's major works.

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