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WHAT thoughtful man has not been perplexed by problems relating to art? An estimable and charming Russian lady I knew, felt the charm of the music and ritual of the services of the Russo-Greek Church so strongly that she wished the peasants, in whom she was interested, to retain their blind faith, though she herself disbelieved the church doctrines. "Their lives are so poor and bare-they have so little art, so little poetry and colour in their lives- Let them at least enjoy what they have; it would be cruel to undeceive them," said she. A false and antiquated view of life is supported by means of art, and is inseparably linked to some Manifestations of art which we enjoy and prize. If the false view of life be destroyed this art will cease to appear valuable. Is it best to screen the error for the sake of preserving the art? Or should the art be sacrificed for the sake of truthfulness? Again and again in history a dominant church has utilised art to maintain its sway over men. Reformers (early Christians, Mohammedans, Puritans, and others) have perceived that art bound people to the old faith, and they were angry with art. These works, in chronological order, are " My Confession ". A Criticism of Dogmatic Theology, which has never been translated. The Four Gospels Harmonised and Translated, of which only two parts, out of three, have as yet appeared in English. What I Believe, sometimes called My Religion. The Gospelin Brief. What are we to do then? sometimes called in English What to do? On Life, which is not an easy work in the original, and has not been satisfactorily translated. The Kingdom of God is within you; and The Christian Teaching, which appeared after What is Art? though it was written before it. To these scientific works I am inclined to add The Kteutzer Sonata, with the Sequel or Postscript explaining its purpose; for though The Kreutzer Sonata is a story, the understanding of sexual problems, dealt with explicitly in the Sequel, is an integral part of that comprehension of life which causes Tolstoy to admire Christ, Buddha, or Francis of Assisi.
About the Author
Tolstoy was born in Yasnaya Polyana, the family estate in the Tula region of Russia. The Tolstoys were a well-known family of old Russian nobility. He was the fourth of five children of Count Nikolai Ilyich Tolstoy, a veteran of the Patriotic War of 1812, and Countess Mariya Tolstaya (Volkonskaya). Tolstoy's parents died when he was young, so he and his siblings were brought up by relatives. In 1844, he began studying law and oriental languages at Kazan University. His teachers described him as "both unable and unwilling to learn." Tolstoy left university in the middle of his studies, returned to Yasnaya Polyana and then spent much of his time in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. In 1851, after running up heavy gambling debts, he went with his older brother to the Caucasus and joined the army. It was about this time that he started writing. His conversion from a dissolute and privileged society author to the non-violent and spiritual anarchist of his latter days was brought about by his experience in the army as well as two trips around Europe in 1857 and 1860-61. Others who followed the same path were Alexander Herzen, Mikhail Bakunin, and Peter Kropotkin. During his 1857 visit, Tolstoy witnessed a public execution in Paris, a traumatic experience that would mark the rest of his life. Writing in a letter to his friend Vasily Botkin: "The truth is that the State is a conspiracy designed not only to exploit, but above all to corrupt its citizens ... Henceforth, I shall never serve any government anywhere." His European trip in 1860-61 shaped both his political and literary transformation when he met Victor Hugo, whose literary talents Tolstoy praised after reading Hugo's newly finished Les Miserables. A comparison of Hugo's novel and Tolstoy's War and Peace shows the influence of the evocation of its battle scenes. Tolstoy's political philosophy was also influenced by a March 1861 visit to French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, then living in exile under an assumed name in Brussels. Apart from reviewing Proudhon's forthcoming publication, La Guerre et la Paix (War and Peace in French), whose title Tolstoy would borrow for his masterpiece, the two men discussed education, as Tolstoy wrote in his educational notebooks: "If I recount this conversation with Proudhon, it is to show that, in my personal experience, he was the only man who understood the significance of education and of the printing press in our time."