"Who, What Am I?": Tolstoy Struggles to Narrate the Self (Hardback)Irina Paperno (author)
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"God only knows how many diverse, captivating impressions and thoughts evoked by these impressions... pass in a single day. If it were only possible to render them in such a way that I could easily read myself and that others could read me as I do..." Such was the desire of the young Tolstoy. Although he knew that this narrative utopia-turning the totality of his life into a book-would remain unfulfilled, Tolstoy would spend the rest of his life attempting to achieve it. "Who, What Am I?" is an account of Tolstoy's lifelong attempt to find adequate ways to represent the self, to probe its limits and, ultimately, to arrive at an identity not based on the bodily self and its accumulated life experience.This book guides readers through the voluminous, highly personal nonfiction writings that Tolstoy produced from the 1850s until his death in 1910. The variety of these texts is enormous, including diaries, religious tracts, personal confessions, letters, autobiographical fragments, and the meticulous accounts of dreams. For Tolstoy, inherent in the structure of the narrative form was a conception of life that accorded linear temporal order a predominant role, and this implied finitude. He refused to accept that human life stopped with death and that the self was limited to what could be remembered and told. In short, his was a philosophical and religious quest, and he followed in the footsteps of many, from Plato and Augustine to Rousseau and Schopenhauer. In reconstructing Tolstoy's struggles, this book reflects on the problems of self and narrative as well as provides an intellectual and psychological biography of the writer.
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Number of pages: 240
Weight: 567 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 25 mm
"Offers a rare exploration into the internal world of Tolstoy by examining his nonfictional, first-person writings, including diaries, letters, reminiscences, autobiographical and confessional statements, and essays.... Paperno makes an invaluable contribution to Tolstoy scholarship."-- R. A. Erb * CHOICE *
"Paperno deftly shows how Tolstoi's attempt to write an autobiography failed, but his perceived failure at capturing the moral, philosophical, and technical issues accurately becomes a testament to his literary honesty (102). "Who, What Am I?" is highly important for any Tolstoi researcher, as it brings together the whole of his writings dealing with the exploration of the self."-- Radha Balasubramanian * Slavic Review *
"This is a relatively short book, yet it is rich in content, taking on some of the most important and challenging problems Tolstoy faced as a writer and thinker. [Irina Paperno] draws on a full range of Tolstoy's nonfiction writings from the 1850s until his death in 1910: diaries, letters, reminiscences, autobiographical and confessional statements, essays, and religious tracts. In addition, her book is informed by vast reading in other sources, primary and secondary."-- Randall A. Poole * The Russian Review *
"I read 'Who, What Am I?' with the kind of engagement one usually experiences when reading a novel. It is intellectually brilliant, emotionally powerful, and at times moving. It is a remarkable book that offers the reader a rare combination of impeccable archival research and acutely observed literary criticism. How can one write the self? Irina Paperno shows that virtually Tolstoy's entire life was spent in a dazzling array of attempts to do so, even as he came increasingly to mistrust the very fact of writing and sought to embrace silence."-- Robin Feuer Miller, Edytha Macy Gross Professor of Humanities, Brandeis University, author of Dostoevsky's Unfinished Journey
"Paperno reads all his [Tolstoy's] writings in relation to the central project of his life: the transformation of his life into a book that would teach others how to live.... `Who, What Am I?' is an important book that will become a standard source for students, general readers and scholars alike."* SLAVONIC AND EAST EUROPEAN REVIEW *
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