Thursday, 10 June 2010

On this day....

Count Leo Tolstoy left on a pilgrimage disguised as a peasant in 1881. By this time the Russian author had already written the two novels that were to make him famous, 'War and Peace' and 'Anna Karenina', yet he found himself in the midst of a spiritual crisis. Indeed, writing in 'A Confession', which was published shortly after shortly after this visit, Tolstoy claimed; 'I cannot recall those years without horror, loathing, and heart-rending pain. I killed people in war, challenged men to duels with the purpose of killing them, and lost at cards; I squandered the fruits of the peasants' toil and then had them executed; I was a fornicator and a cheat. Lying, stealing, promiscuity of every kind, drunkenness, violence, murder -- there was not a crime I did not commit...Thus I lived for ten years'.

It was therefore, with the express intention of determining his place in this ever chaotic order, that he travelled, in no more than a peasant coat and homemade shoes, to the Optina Pustyn monastery, determined to carry out the ascetic lifestyle that he felt was required. However, his wife was less keen on Tolstoy's refound direction, and reportedly proceeded to carry out hysterical attempts to starve and drown herself. Tolstoy himself died in a railway station in 1910, alone, but perhaps finally at peace.

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