Leo Tolstoy

1828-1910. Russian novelist and social reformer. Born into a family of the ruling class, he knew comfort and social prestige in his youth on the family estate in Tula. After serving in the Crimean War, he returned home to write and study. In 1861 he freed his serfs. Tolstoy matured during the era when Russia was feeling the pressure for social reform. In the midst of his fame he experienced a mystical transformation and cast his lot with the peasants, adopting their dress and laboring in their trades. He rejected Russian orthodoxy and evolved his own form of faith, emphasizing as a central creed the nonresistance to evil. Disowning his title and his wealth, he turned over his property to his wife. In his later years he became embittered and left his home in company with his daughter. His best novels are War and Peace (1860), centered on the Napoleonic invasion of Russia; Anna Karenina (1877); Kreutzer Sonata (1890); Resurrection (1899); and an essay, What is Art (1899), which sets forth the conviction that good art is moral art. He stresses the conflict between reason and the natural desire to live without the restraints of social convention. He writes with a large comprehensiveness and is a master of analysis, characterization, and moral insights.