tolstoy by romain rolland
Post on 05-Feb-2016
Embed Size (px)
DESCRIPTIONThe Biography of Leo Tolstoy. The author of this book was crowned by the Nobel award in 1924.
By ROMAIN ROLLAND
ROMAIN ROLLANDAUTHOR OF "JEAN CHRISTOPHE"
NEW YORKEP BUTTON & COMPANY
31 West Twenty-Third Street
By E. P. Dutton & Company
To those of my own generation, the light thathas but lately failed was the purest that illu-
mined their youth. In the gloomy twilightof the later nineteenth century it shone as a
star of consolation, whose radiance attractedand appeased our awakening spirits. As oneof the manyfor there are many in France
to whom Tolstoy was very much more thanan admired artist: for whom he was a friend,the best of friends, the one true friend in the
whole European artI wish to lay before thissacred memory my tribute of gratitude and oflove.
The days when I learned to know him aredays that I shall never forget. It was in 1886.
After some years of silent germination themarvellous flowers of Russian art began toblossom on the soil of France. Translationsof Tolstoy and of Dostoyevsky were being is-
sued in feverish haste by all the publishing-houses of Paris. Between the years '85 and'87 came War and Peace, Anna Karenin,Childhood and Youth, Polikushka, The Deathof Ivan Ilyitch, the novels of the Caucasus,
and the Tales for the People. In the spaceof a few months, almost of a few weeks, therewas revealed to our eager eyes the present-
ment of a vast, unfamiliar life, in which wasreflected a new people, a new world.
I had but newly entered the Normal Col-lege. My fellow-scholars were of widely di-vergent opinions. In our little world weresuch realistic and ironical spirits as the phi-losopher Georges Dumas; poets, like Suares,burning with love of the Italian Renaissance;faithful disciples of classic tradition; Stend-
halians, Wagnerians, atheists and mystics. Itwas a world of plentiful discussion, plentifuldisagreement; but for a period of some
months we were nearly all united by a com-mon love of Tolstoy. It is true that each
loved him for different reasons, for each dis-covered in him himself; but this love was alove that opened the door to a revelation of
life; to the wide world itself. On every sidein our families, in our country homesthismighty voice, which spoke from the confinesof Europe, awakened the same emotions, un-expected as they often were. I remembermy amazement upon hearing some middle-class people of Nivernais, my native provincepeople who felt no interest whatever in art,people who read practically nothingspeakwith the most intense feeling of The Death ofIvan Ilyitch.
I have read, in the writings of distinguished
critics, the theory that Tolstoy owed the bestof his ideas to the French romantics: toGeorge Sand, to Victor Hugo. We mayignore the absurdity of supposing that
Tolstoy, who could not endure her, could everhave been subject to the influence of GeorgeSand; but we cannot deny the influence ofJean-Jacques Rousseau and of Stendhal;nevertheless, we belittle the greatness of
Tolstoy, and the power of his fascination, ifwe attribute to them his ideas. The circle ofideas in which art moves and has its beingis a narrow one. It is not in those ideas that
his might resides, but in his expression ofthem; in the personal accent, the imprint ofthe artist, the colour and savour of his life.Whether Tolstoy's ideas were or were not
borroweda matter to be presently con-siderednever yet had a voice like to his re-sounded throughout Europe. How else canwe explain the thrill of emotion which we allof us felt upon hearing that psychic music,that harmony for which we had so longwaited, and of which we felt the need? Inour opinion the style counted for nothing.Most of us, myself included, made the ac-quaintance of Melchior de Vogue's work onthe subject of the Russian novel * after wehad read the novels of Tolstoy; and his ad-miration of our hero seemed, after ours, a
pallid thing. M. de Vogue spoke essentiallyas a man of letters pure and simple. But forour part it was not enough to admire the pre-sentation of life: we lived it; it was our own.
Ours it was by its ardent love of life, by itsquality of youth; ours by its irony, its dis-illusion, its pitiless discernment, and its haunt-
1 Le Roman Russe.
ing sense of mortality. Ours by its dreamsof brotherly love, of peace among men ; oursby its terrible accusation of the lies of civilisa-tion ; ours by its realism ; by its mysticism ours
by its savour of nature, its sense of invisibleforces, its vertigo in the face of the infinite.
To many of us the novels of Tolstoy werewhat Werther was to an earlier generation:the wonderful mirror of our passions, ourstrength, our weaknesses, of our hopes, our
terrors, our discouragement. We were in nowise anxious to reconcile these many contra-dictions; still less did we concern ourselves to
imprison this complex, multiple mind, full ofechoes of the whole wide world, within thenarrow limits of religious or political cate-
gories, as have the greater number of thosewho have written of Tolstoy in these latteryears: incapable of extricating themselves
from the conflict of parties, dragging him intothe arena of their own passions, measuringhim by the standards of their socialistic orclerical coteries. As if our coteries could bethe measure of a genius! What is it to meif Tolstoy is or is not of my party? Shall I
ask of what party Shakespeare was, or Dante,before I breathe the atmosphere of his magicor steep myself in its light?
We did not say, as do the critics of to-day,that there were two Tolstoys: the Tolstoy of
the period before the crisis and he of theperiod after the crisis; that the one was thegreat artist, while the other was not an artistat all. For us there was only one Tolstoy, andwe loved the whole of him; for we felt, in-stinctively, that in such souls as his all things
are bound together and each has its integralplace.
I Childhood ... . . . u
II Boyhood and Youth 23
III Youth: The Army 35IV Early Work: Tales of the Causasus 41
V Sebastopol: War and Religion . . 55VI St. Petersburg 71
VII "Family Happiness" 89
VIII Marriage 97
IX "Anna Karenin" . . . . . . .117
X The Crisis 133XI Reality 155
XII Art and Conscience 167
XIII Science in Art 181
XIV Theories of Art: Music .... 207
XV "Resurrection" 2377
8 CONTENTSCHAPTER PAGEXVI Religion and Politics 251
XVII Old Age 279
XVIII Conclusion 305
OUR instinct was conscious then of that whichreason must prove to-day. The task is pos-sible now, for the long life has attained its
term ; revealing itself, unveiled, to the eyes of
all, with unequalled candour, unexampled sin-cerity. To-day we are at once arrested by thedegree in which that life has always remainedthe same, from the beginning to the end, inspite of all the barriers which critics havesought to erect here and there along its course
in spite of Tolstoy himself, who, like everyimpassioned mind, was inclined to the belief,when he loved, or conceived a faith, that heloved or believed for the first time; that the
commencement of his true life dated fromthat moment. Commencementrecommence-ment! How often his mind was the theatreof the same struggle, the same crises! Wecannot speak of the unity of his ideas, for no
such unity existed; we can only speak of the
persistence among them of the same diverseelements; sometimes allied, sometimes inimi-cal; more often enemies than allies. Unityis to be found neither in the spirit nor themind of a Tolstoy; it exists only in the internalconflict of his passions, in the tragedy of his
art and his life.In him life and art are one. Never was
work more intimately mingled with theartist's life; it has, almost constantly, the value
of autobiography; it enables us to follow the
writer, step by step, from the time when hewas twenty-five years of age, throughout all
the contradictory experiences of his adventur-
ous career. His Journal, which he com-menced before the completion of his twentiethyear, and continued until his death, 1 together
1 With the exception of a few interruptions : one espe-cially of considerable length, between 1865 and 1878.
with the notes furnished by M. Birukov,2 com-pletes this knowledge, and enables us not onlyto read almost day by day in the history ofTolstoy's conscience, but also to reconstitute
the world in which his genius struck root, andthe minds from which his own drew suste-nance.
His was a rich inheritance. The Tolstoysand the Volkonskys were very ancient families,of the greater nobility, claiming descent fromRurik, numbering among their ancestors com-panions of Peter the Great, generals of the
Seven Years' War, heroes of the Napoleonicstruggle, Decembrists, and political exiles.This inheritance included family traditions;old memories to which Tolstoy was indebtedfor some of the most original types in his Warand Peace; there was the old Prince Bolkon-sky, his maternal grandfather, Voltairian, des-
potic, a belated representative of the aristoc-
2 For his remarkable biography of Leon Tolsto'i, Vie
et CEuvre, Memoires, Souvenirs, Lettres, Extraits duJournal intime,