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What Men Live By by Leo Tolstoy

What Men Live By (1881)

by Leo Tolstoy

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213686,953 (3.63)7
A collection of Tales from the master of realist fiction Leo Tolstoy, featuring: What Men Live By, The Three Questions, The Coffee-House of Surat, How Much Land Does a Man Need?



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I first heard about this story in Cancer Ward, and I was immediately curious. Had I understood at the time how very short a story it is, I would have realized that the summary given by the characters in Cancer Ward pretty much covered the entire thing, but still, when I saw this charming little hardback at my favorite used bookstore, I was enchanted and couldn't pass it up.

What Men Live By is a parable/fairy tale -- and because it's by Tolstoy you know it will be religious, moral, and austere. I confess I have a lot of sympathy for his philosophy, so I could hardly fail to be charmed by this story, with or without its religious motivations. ( )
  greeniezona | Jun 24, 2018 |
A simple story at first glance, narrated by the one of the world's most magnificent writers, so naturally, it couldn't have been "a simple story" but one with a profound message at the end. I can tell, though, that the story suffered in the process of translation and I am going to find the original Russian version. ( )
  Clara53 | May 5, 2011 |
Tolstoy's allegorical tale about a fallen angel, Michael, who (like many of us) believed he knew better than God. Michael is sent to earth naked and alone during a harsh Russian winter to discover what men live by. If Michael survives and makes this discovery, he can regain his wings and return to the heavenly realm. With his simple yet precise use of language, Tolstoy is a master storyteller! I loved this story so much and was unsuccessful at convincing my husband and children to read it that one year on a twenty hour road trip out west, I read it aloud to them. At first, they moaned and groaned but at the stories end, they admitted that they enjoyed it. ( )
  gwen.ashworth | Apr 26, 2010 |
Originally written for an audience of children, peasants, and the newly-literate, this short story is simple and easy to understand. It is a religious parable, but can be enjoyed by anyone as a critique of morality and the best way to live life. This work is entertaining the entire way through, and is surprising and thought-provoking on many levels. It can be interpreted as simply as it is written, or as philosophically as it was intended. ( )
  kiwikowalski | Mar 27, 2010 |
I'm not religious, but these stories by Tolstoy certainly nudged me in that direction. An allegory about an angel who takes up residence with a poor shoemaker, Simon. The angel is being punished by God and needs to learn what men live by. Not self-interest, but love, is Tolstoy's answer. Trite idea, but not from the pen of a great writer. The other stories are equally compelling. ( )
  cdeuker | Jul 3, 2009 |
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