'Despite the tangle of ideas in my mind . . . I was young, innocent, free, and therefore almost happy' Leo Tolstoy began his trilogy, Childhood, Boyhood, Youth,in his early twenties. Although he would in his old age famously dismiss it as an 'awkward mixture of fact and fiction', generations of readers have not agreed, finding the novel to be a charming and insightful portrait of inner growth against the background of a world limned with extraordinary clarity, grace and colour. Evident too in its brilliant account of a young person's emerging awareness of the world and of his place within it are many of the stances, techniques and themes that would come to full flower in the immortal War and Peaceand Anna Karenina, and in the other great works of Tolstoy's maturity. Judson Rosengrant's lucid new translation conveys the freshness, poetry, and power of Tolstoy's early prose, while his introduction looks at Tolstoy's early development and the complex relationship between the trilogy and his life. The edition also contains a biographical chronology, suggestions for further reading, extensive historical notes and a list of characters. Translated with an introduction and notes by Judson Rosengrant
Tolstoy had a difficult childhood, and at this time in his life, after seeing the Crimean War, and having been through so much - a difficult childhood, with both parents dying young, we see both the intense frustration he has with the world, but also his sensitivity and goodness - his ability to understand people, which so colors the rest of his work. It is partly his own life shown here, but also the childhood he wished he had. He paints these innocent scenes so well that one can recognize their own self in it - or is that just me, with my delusions of grandeur of being like him in some way?
In any case, a very good book. Recommended for Tolstoy fans, as well as anyone reminiscing about childhood.
Another wonderful thing about these novellas is the description of how the Russian landed classes lived, how they interacted with their peers and with their subordinates, how they interacted with the opposite sex, what was thought 'comme il faut' and how important propriety was to this society. There is something a little 'Jane Austenish' about it.