The Modern Language Association (MLA) awarded the Lois Roth Award to John Woodsworth and Arkadi Klioutchanski of the University of Ottawa’s Slavic Research Group for their translation of Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya’s My Life memoirs.
My Life was selected among the top 100 non-fiction works of 2010 by The Globe and Mail.
One hundred years after his death, Leo Tolstoy continues to be regarded as one of the world’s most accomplished writers. Historically, little attention has been paid to his wife Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya. Acting in the capacity of literary assistant, translator, transcriber, and editor, she played an important role in the development of her husband’s career. Her memoirs – which she titled My Life – lay dormant for almost a century. Now their first-time-ever appearance in Russia is complemented by an unabridged and annotated English translation.
Tolstaya’s story takes us from her childhood through the early years of her marriage, the writing of War and Peace and Anna Karenina and into the first year of the twentieth century. She paints an intimate and honest portrait of her husband’s character, providing new details about his life to which she alone was privy. She offers a better understanding of Tolstoy’s character, his qualities and failings as a husband and a father, and forms a picture of the quintessential Tolstoyan character which underlies his fiction.
My Life also reveals that Tolstaya was an accomplished author in her own right—as well as a translator, amateur artist, musician, photographer, and businesswoman—a rarity in the largely male-dominated world of the time. She was actively involved in the relief efforts for the 1891–92 famine and the emigration of the Doukhobors in 1899. She was a prolific correspondent, in touch with many prominent figures in Russian and Western society. Guests in her home ranged from peasants to princes, from anarchists to artists, from composers to philosophers. Her descriptions of these personalities read as a chronicle of the times, affording a unique portrait of late-19th- and early-20th-century Russian society, ranging from peasants to the Tsar himself.
My Life is the most important primary document about Tolstoy to be published in many years and a unique and intimate portrait of one of the greatest literary minds of all time.
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