Leo Tolstoy

Excerpt from a documentary that includes extensive footage of Tolstoy in the last year of his life.  Trailer for the movie “The Last Station” here.

Today is Leo Tolstoy‘s birthday (1828-1910).

Frye in “Giants in Time,” The Educated Imagination:

What produces the tolerance is the power of detachment in the imagination, where things are removed just out of reach of belief and action.  Experience is nearly always commonplace; the present is not romantic in the way the past is, and ideals and great visions have a way of becoming shoddy in practical life.  Literature reverses this process.  When experience is removed from us a bit, as the experience of the Napoleonic war is in Tolstoy’s War and Peace, there’s a tremendous increase of dignity and exhileration.  I mention Tolstoy because he’d be the last writer to try to glamorize the war itself, or pretend that its horror wasn’t horrible.  There is an element of illusion even in War and Peace, but the illusion gives us a reality that isn’t in the actual experience of the war itself: the reality of proportion and perspective, of seeing what it’s all about, that only detachment can give.  Literature helps to give us that detachment, and so do history and philosophy and science and everything else worth studying.  But literature has something more to give peculiarly its own: something as absurd and impossible as the primitive magic it so closely resembles. (46-7)

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