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February 2019 Non-Fiction: Canadian

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    9780776627809 Electronic book text, PDF, $34.99 CAD 9780776627816 Electronic book text, EPUB, $34.99 CAD 9780776627823 Electronic book text, MobiPocket, $34.99 CAD
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Leo Tolstoy in Conversation with Four Peasant Sectarian Writers
The Complete Correspondence
Edited by: Andrew Donskov Translated by: John Woodsworth Compiled by: Liudmila Gladkova
9780776627793 Paperback, Trade English Professional/Scholarly HISTORY / Russia & the Former Soviet Union Apr 30, 2019
$49.95 CAD
Active 6 x 9 x 1 in | 581 gr 420 pages University of Ottawa Press

The theme of the peasantry is central throughout most of Tolstoy’s long career. His obsession with this class is seen not just as a matter of social or humanitarian concern, but as a response to the questions of “how to live a good life” and “what is the meaning of life that an inevitable death will not destroy?” These questions plagued him his entire life.

The letters he exchanged with the four major peasant sectarian writers (Bondarev, Zheltov, Verigin, and Novikov) reveal that Tolstoy was matched as a profound thinker by his correspondents, as they converse on religious-moral questions, the meaning of life and how one should strive to find it, and on a wide array of burning social and personal problems. Reading through the analysis and the extensively annotated letters as a unified whole, elucidates the progressive development of the ideas they shared (and where these diverged) and which guided Tolstoy’s and his correspondents’ lives.

Juxtaposing Tolstoy’s letters with those of his four sectarian correspondents makes them even more significant as it shows them in their original context – a dialogue, or conversation. Also, with the aim to present the conversation in an even broader context, Andrew Donskov briefly discusses Tolstoy’s relationship with peasants in general as well as with each of the four individual writers in particular.

In addition, he provides a background sketch of two major religious groups, namely the Doukhobors and the Molokans, both of which still claim sizeable populations of followers in North America today.


Andrew Donskov, FRSC, is Distinguished Professor at the University of Ottawa, and full professor at the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. His research focuses on nineteenth-century Russian literature. In particular, Russian peasant literature, the Doukhobors, and the literary career of Leo Tolstoy. He received the Tolstoy Medal for Distinguished Contributions to Tolstoy Studies, awarded by the L.N. Tolstoy Museum in Moscow, in 2015.

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