‘The beautiful illusion, when reading Tolstoy, is that one is looking directly at the world, as opposed to a depiction’ Andrew O’Hagan from his preface to Childhood, Boyhood and Youth Tolstoy took the essence of his early years and made a pillow of it, a soft place to dream upon when reality was heavy, and he wrote fictions that are projections of fantasy as much as they are distillations of memory.
Published in 1852, when Tolstoy was 24, Childhood, Boyhood and Youth is narrated by Nikólya, a young boy from a bourgeois family. Told through the lens of his imagination, characters are drawn through his tear-stained view of the world. We are shown his preoccupations about etiquette, education, love, morality and faith, as they mingle with great events, such as a family hunt that takes place in a ‘tall, bluish forest’, where, with the hum of insects and the odour of wormwood, we see the first real flowering of Tolstoy’s reportorial style. In this signature style the smell, sight and sounds of a childhood are summoned.
This riverrun edition presents a master Russian storyteller whose fierce gift for intimate address summons the wholeness of life on every page. Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude, whose versions were those in which many of Tolstoy’s best-known and most influential works were first read in English.