28 pages 56 minutes read

Leo Tolstoy

What Men Live By

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1885

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Background

Authorial Context: Leo Tolstoy

Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (1828-1910), commonly known as Leo Tolstoy, is one of the most famous authors of the 19th century. Born to a noble family, he and his siblings were left orphans when Tolstoy was nine, and the rest of his childhood was spent traveling between different relations. Fighting for Russia in the Crimean War, his experiences as a soldier deeply disturbed him, and he hated the death and destruction that war caused. Along with his travels around Europe and his extensive engagement with philosophical writers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Victor Hugo, this experience led to Tolstoy developing strong philosophical and moral ideals, which he would spend his life engaging with and perfecting through his writing.

Best known for his longer works like War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877), his 1879 autobiographical work A Confession chronicled his crisis of faith. After that, Tolstoy increasingly focused on writing novellas, short stories, and religious and philosophical essays. More and more concerned about the nature of art, Tolstoy wanted to create stories that had a “universal” effect, speaking the truth simply and inspiring people to be good and live good lives.

Through the 1880s and 1890s, Tolstoy continued to focus on Christianity and philosophy.

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