Tuesday, 11 June 2013

An interview with L.N. Tolstoy in 1905

The only known color photograph of Tolstoy. (Yasnaya Polyana, 1908).
(image by wikipedia)
In its March 5, 1905 issue, the Swedish weekly Hvar8 Dag published an interview with
Count Lev Nikolayevich (Leo) Tolstoy. The Swedish interviewer, who used the pseudonym Oleg, had met Tolstoy at his Yasnaya Polyana estate in the Tula region.

Below is a selection of Tolstoy's views, as published in the interview:

On Sweden and Swedes

”Oh, you are Swedish, I have always been interested in Sweden, and you may know that one of my sons is married to a Swede; for the time being, he is living in St. Petersburg. But do you know, what has saddened me, is that also in your country people have more and more began to spend their energy on armaments. The blame for all this goes to the insane patriotism, and the governments, which incite peoples against each other.”

On small nationalities

”I feel a deep sympathy for all these small and subdued nationalities, Poles, Finns, Armenians and others. Their cause is right, and their fate has always grieved me.”

On Maxim Gorky

”I cannot say that I admire him as much as is fashionable now. Of course, he is not without talent, but he has not built himself a stable world view, which one would like to find in a writer, no norm according to which he judges things.”

On Anton Chekhov

”As a playwright he is of minor importance, only for entertainment. However, among his short stories, there are many, which are of a very high quality.”

On classic writers

”It appears, after all, that all these modern ones in the end are so small compared with the classic writers. I have to restrain myself not to lose interest in them, when I think of the old masters, Shakespeare, Goethe, and Schopenhauer.”

On August Strindberg

”I have not read anything by him, so I know about his views only in a general way. Is he not a half mad person, even worse than Ibsen?

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