Leo Tolstoy

Writer / Philosopher

Born: 9 September 1828
Died: 20 November 1910
Birthplace: Yasnaya Polyana, Tula Province, Russia
Best known as: Author of War and Peace
Considered one of the world's greatest novelists, Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy is famous especially for the 19th century classics War and Peace (1865-69) and Anna Karenina (1877-78). Although he was born into nobility, Leo Tolstoy spent much of his life as a champion of Russia's peasant class, notably in the field of education. He began his literary career in the 1850s, publishing a trilogy about his own life: Childhood (Detstvo, 1852), Boyhood ( Otrochestvo, 1854) and Youth (Yunost', 1857). Tolstoy served in the Russian army during the Crimean War, and his book Sevastopol Sketches (Sevastopol'skie Rasskazy, 1855-56) was well-received in literary circles and praised for its realistic depiction of war. After traveling throughout Europe, Leo Tolstoy returned to the family estate and devoted himself to raising a family and writing his great psychological novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina. From the 1880s until his death, he devoted himself to more spiritual and philosophical matters, writing several essays on ethics and morals and coming to terms with his own Christian conversion (described in 1879's Confessions). Leo Tolstoy's other works include the novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1884) and the novel Resurrection (1899-1900).
Extra credit: Leo Tolstoy's death is the stuff of legend: in 1910, at the age of 82, he left his home with his youngest daughter, Alexandra, and hopped a train for an unspecified destination. He fell ill along the way and ended up dying a few days later at a railroad stationmaster's house in Astapovo... Leo Tolstoy was played by Christopher Plummer in the 2009 movie The Last Station, with Helen Mirren as Tolstoy's wife Sonya. Plummer was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance.

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