The Trouble with Tolstoy: At War with Himself

February 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

This is part one of a must see BBC documentary on the world’s greatest writer, Lev Tolstoy. (Part 2 is here.)

Alan Yentob takes an epic train ride through Tolstoy’s Russia, examining how Russia’s great novelist became her great troublemaker.

In this programme, he reveals a difficult and troubled youth, obsessed with sex and gambling, who turned writer while serving as a soldier in Chechnya and the Crimea. His experiences on the frontline eventually fed into War and Peace, a book now recognised as, ‘the gold standard by which all other novels are judged’. They also triggered his conversion to outspoken pacifist.

Alan’s expedition takes him to the Tatar city of Kazan, where Tolstoy was a teenager, the siege of Sevastopol on the Black Sea and Imperial St Petersburg, as well as the idyllic Tolstoy country estate, the writer’s cradle and grave, and home throughout his passionate but brutal 48-year marriage to Sofya – a marriage that began with rape, produced 13 children and ended with desertion and denial.

Contributors include Tolstoy’s great great grandson Vladimir Tolstoy, AN Wilson and author of a new Tolstoy biography, Rosamund Bartlett.

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