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Sophia Tolstoy

by Alexandra Popoff

As Leo Tolstoy's wife, Sophia Tolstoy experienced both glory and condemnation during their forty-eight-year marriage. She was admired as the muse and literary assistant to one of the world's most celebrated novelists. But when in later years Tolstoy became a towering public figure and founded a new brand of religion, she was scorned for her disagreements with him. And it is this version of Sophia--malicious, shrill, perennially at war with Tolstoy--that has gone down in the historical record. Drawing on newly available archival material, including Sophia's unpublished memoir, Alexandra Popoff presents a dramatically different and accurate portrait of the woman and the marriage. This lively, well-researched biography demonstrates that, contrary to popular belief, Sophia was remarkably supportive of Tolstoy and was, in fact, key to his fame. Gifted and versatile, Sophia assisted Tolstoy during the writing ofWar and PeaceandAnna Karenina. Having modeled his most memorable female characters on her, Tolstoy admired his wife's boundless energy, which he called "the force of life. " Sophia's letters, never before translated, illuminate the couple's true relationship and provide insights into Tolstoy's creative laboratory. Although long portrayed as an elitist and hysterical countess, Sophia was in reality a practical, independent-minded, generous, and talented woman who shared Tolstoy's important values and his capacity for work. Mother of thirteen, she participated in Tolstoy's causes and managed all business a airs. Popoff describes in haunting detail the intrusion into their marriage by Tolstoy's religious disciple Vladimir Chertkov, who controlled Tolstoy at the end of his life and led a smear campaign against Sophia, branding her evil and mad. She is still judged by Chertkov's false accounts, which dismissed her valuable achievements and contributions. During his later religious phase, Tolstoy renounced his property and copyright, and Sophia had to become the breadwinner. She published Tolstoy's collected works and supported their large family. Despite the pressures of her demanding life, she realized her own talents as a writer, photographer, translator, and aspiring artist This vigorous, engrossing biography presents in fascinating depth and detail the many ways in which Sophia Tolstoy enriched the life and work of one of the world's most revered authors.

Tolstoy's False Disciple: The Untold Story of Leo Tolstoy and Vladimir Chertkov

by Alexandra Popoff

The new book from the critically acclaimed author of The Wives and ?Sophia Tolstoy sheds light on one of the strangest and most unusual relationships in literary history--which has been steeped in secrecy for more than a century. On the snowy morning of February 8, 1897, the Petersburg secret police were following Tolstoy's every move. At sixty-nine, Russia's most celebrated writer was being treated like a major criminal. Prominent Russians were always watched, but Tolstoy earned particular scrutiny. Over a decade earlier, when his advocacy on behalf of oppressed minorities angered the Orthodox Church and the Tsar, he was placed under permanent police surveillance. Although Tolstoy was wearing his peasant garb, people on the streets had no trouble recognizing him from his portraits. He was often seen in the company of his chief disciple, Vladimir Chertkov. A man of striking appearance, twenty-five years younger, Chertkov commanded attention. His photographs with Tolstoy show him towering over the writer, but who exactly was this imposing man? Close to the Tsars and to the chief of the secret police, Chertkov represented the very things Tolstoy had renounced --class privilege, unlimited power, and wealth. Yet, Chertkov fascinated and attracted Tolstoy. He became the writer's closest confidant, even reading his daily diary, and by the end of Tolstoy's life, Chertkov had established complete control over the writer and his legacy. Tolstoy's full exchange with Chertkov comprises more than 2,000 letters, making him the writer's largest correspondent. The Russian archives have suppressed much of this communication as well as Chertkov's papers for more than a century. The product of ground-breaking archival research, Tolstoy's False Disciple promises to be a revelatory portrait of the two men and their three-decade-long clandestine relationship.

The Wives

by Alexandra Popoff

Muses and editors, saviors and publishers: Meet the women behind the greatest works of Russian literature "Behind every good man is a good woman" is a common saying, but when it comes to literature, the relationship between spouses is even that much more complex. F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, and D. H. Lawrence used their marriages for literary inspiration and material, sometime at the expense of their spouses' sanity. Thomas Carlyle wanted his wife to assist him, but Jane Carlyle became increasingly bitter and resentful in her new role, putting additional strain on their relationship. In Russian literary marriages, however, the wives of some of the most famous authors of all time did not resent taking a "secondary position," although to call their position secondary does not do justice to the vital role these women played in the creation of some of the greatest literary works in history. From Sophia Tolstoy to Véra Nabokov, Elena Bulgakov, Nadezdha Mandelstam, Anna Dostevsky, and Natalya Solzhenitsyn, these women ranged from stenographers and typists to editors, researchers, translators, and even publishers. Living under restrictive regimes, many of these women battled censorship and preserved the writers' illicit archives, often risking their own lives to do so. They established a tradition all their own, unmatched in the West. Many of these women were the writers' intellectual companions and made invaluable contributions to the creative process. And their husbands knew it. Leo Tolstoy made no secret of Sofia's involvement in War and Peace in his letters, and Vladimir Nabokov referred to Véra as his own "single shadow."

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