Leo Tolstoy. When you hear the name, you probably immediately think, “Oh, that guy wrote War and Peace, right? Isn’t that like a thousand pages?” Yes, and yes. But he did more than that. I would probably be thinking he was best known only for War and Peace and Anna Karenina, too, if I wasn’t doing a 15 minute seminar on his written works and their impact, among other things. He wrote countless political essays and short stories, some of which I’ve been lucky enough to read in my pursuit of knowledge. On of his short stories, A Landowner’s Morning, is semi-autobiographical, and about, yeah, you guessed it, a day in the life of a landowner. During Leo’s time, people who owned land were called Princes of their land, and they had people living on their land, referred to as ‘serfs’. Leo was a landowner at one time, and the experience of leaving university to go work for his people strongly affected Leo. So much so, he wrote a short story depicting the same event.
Tolstoy’s writing is praised, not because it’s lengthy or because his stories are interesting. His writing style is real- when you read his writing, you’ll be hard pressed to not see the setting, or feel what the character is feeling. This one excerpt from A Landowner’s Morning really stands out to me, and keep in mind, this piece was written before both War and Peace and Anna Karenina, the two works that are considered his best.
“Churis’s abode consisted of a crumbling log shack, rotting at the corners, sloping to one side and so sunk into the ground that a small window with a broken pane and a shutter torn off one of its hinges and one other window, stopped up with tow, were only just visible above the manure heap. A log-built passageway with a dirty threshold and a low door, another small log shack, even lower and more ancient than the passage, a gate and a wattle shed clustered next to the main building. All this had at one time or other been covered by a single uneven roof; now, however, rotting black thatch hung thickly only on the eaves, while laths and rafters were in places clearly visible. In the front of the yard was a well with ramshackle wooden sides, the remains of a post and pulley, and a dirty puddle which had been trampled by cattle and in which ducks were now splashing about.”
Don’t you see Churis’s little house, all decrepit and wanting? I can’t help but see it.
Anyway, since I love to procrastinate, I thought maybe I would do so about something I’m actually somewhat doing. Makes sense? Nah, didn’t think so.