My Life

By Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya
Edited by Andrew Donskov
Translated by John Woodsworth and Arkadi Klioutchanski

My Life

  • Available (September 2010)
  • Cloth $89.95 CAD
    978-0-7766-3042-7
    1188 pages . 8 x 10
  • PDF ebook $44.99 CAD
    978-0-7766-1922-4
  • ePub ebook $44.99 CAD
    978-0-7766-1921-7

“... it expands our awareness of the complex internal life of the great writer. Sofia’s text will provide further stimulus for Tolstoy scholarship. Its rich real-life details provide material both for historians and literary scholars.

The book is well translated and splendidly edited. It contains a poetry appendix, 39 Russian poems cited by the author (some are her own), 110 illustrations, 4 pages of genealogical tables, a bibliography, chapter outline, index of Tolstoy’s works cited, and a footnote index.”

-Myroslav Shkandrij, Department of German and Slavic Studies, University of Manitoba

Description

The Modern Language Association (MLA) awarded the Lois Roth Award to John Woodsworth and Arkadi Klioutchanski of the University of Ottawa’s Slavic Research Group for their translation of Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya’s My Life memoirs.

My Life was selected among the top 100 non-fiction works of 2010 by The Globe and Mail.

It has also won an honourable mention in the Biography and Autobiography category of the 2010 American Publishers Awards for the Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE) awards.
And, finally, it made it into the Association of American University Presses' 2011 Book, Jacket and Journal Show.

One hundred years after his death, Leo Tolstoy continues to be regarded as one of the world’s most accomplished writers. Historically, little attention has been paid to his wife Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya. Acting in the capacity of literary assistant, translator, transcriber, and editor, she played an important role in the development of her husband’s career. Her memoirs – which she titled My Life – lay dormant for almost a century. Now their first-time-ever appearance in Russia is complemented by an unabridged and annotated English translation.

Tolstaya’s story takes us from her childhood through the early years of her marriage, the writing of War and Peace and Anna Karenina and into the first year of the twentieth century. She paints an intimate and honest portrait of her husband’s character, providing new details about his life to which she alone was privy. She offers a better understanding of Tolstoy’s character, his qualities and failings as a husband and a father, and forms a picture of the quintessential Tolstoyan character which underlies his fiction.

My Life also reveals that Tolstaya was an accomplished author in her own right—as well as a translator, amateur artist, musician, photographer, and businesswoman—a rarity in the largely male-dominated world of the time. She was actively involved in the relief efforts for the 1891–92 famine and the emigration of the Doukhobors in 1899. She was a prolific correspondent, in touch with many prominent figures in Russian and Western society. Guests in her home ranged from peasants to princes, from anarchists to artists, from composers to philosophers. Her descriptions of these personalities read as a chronicle of the times, affording a unique portrait of late-19th- and early-20th-century Russian society, ranging from peasants to the Tsar himself.

My Life is the most important primary document about Tolstoy to be published in many years and a unique and intimate portrait of one of the greatest literary minds of all time.

Author Bio

Andrew Donskov is professor of Russian Literature and director of the Slavic Research Group at the University of Ottawa. He has authored and edited many books on Tolstoy, including Leo Tolstoy and the Canadian Doukhobors (Carleton University Centre for Research on Canadian-Russian Relations, 2005). 

John Woodsworth is a research associate with the Slavic Research Group at the University of Ottawa and a member of the Literary Translators' Association of Canada. He has been a professional translator for over forty-five years and has translated more than 20 books.

Arkadi Klioutchanski is a doctoral student of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto. He is a research associate with the Slavic Research Group at the University of Ottawa, where he also teaches Russian.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

Editor’s Note

Selected Genealogy

Introduction: “Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya: An Insider’s Perspective”
My Life
Part I (1840s–1862)

Part II (1862–1875)

Part III (1876–1883)

Part IV (1884–1888)

Part V (1889–1891)

Part VI (1892–1895)

Part VII (1896–1899)

Part VIII (1900–1901)
Appendix: Poems Cited

Bibliography

Outline of Chapters

Index of References to Tolstoy’s Works

Index of Names

About the Book

"Neither Dostoevsky nor Tolstoy would be such giants without their wives. Sonya Tolstoy's voice leaps from these 1,018 pages: motherhood, the intimacies and furies of a long marriage, the agony of public life, the cooling of her husband's affections. Her closing words, 'the absence of any biased forethought (means that) everything here is true and sincere,' remind us of the living force of a diary unfolding over a lifetime, as opposed to an autobiography."

- Times Higher Education

"...uOttawa scholar and world-renowned Lev Tolstoy expert, Andrew Donskov, spent years producing what is being considered one of the most scholarly and important contributions on Tolstoy. Indeed, such a success will not only affect Tolstoy fans and academics all over the world, but it will also help to bolster Slavonic studies at the University of Ottawa." 

- The Fish "uOttawa Makes History"

“... it expands our awareness of the complex internal life of the great writer. Sofia’s text will provide further stimulus for Tolstoy scholarship. Its rich real-life details provide material both for historians and literary scholars.

The book is well translated and splendidly edited. It contains a poetry appendix, 39 Russian poems cited by the author (some are her own), 110 illustrations, 4 pages of genealogical tables, a bibliography, chapter outline, index of Tolstoy’s works cited, and a footnote index.”

-Myroslav Shkandrij, Department of German and Slavic Studies, University of Manitoba