(E-Book) Read! YOUTH by Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy, Youth (1856).

First sentence: “I have said that my friendship with Dimitri opened up for me a new view of my life and of its aim and relations.”

P. 99: “Yet so inexhaustible is that store of old maid’s love that, despite the numbers of individuals so selected, there still remains an abundant surplus of affection which they lavish upon all by whom they are surrounded – upon alll, good or bad, whom they may chance to meet in their daily life.”

Last sentence: “Kow long that moral impulse lasted, what it consisted of, and what new principles I devised for my moral growth I will relate shen speaking of the ensuing and happier portion of my early manhood.”

Short Biography (more than is told in the book):

When his Aunt Aline died in 1841, Leo Tolstoy, now aged thirteen travelled with his brothers to Kazan where their next guardians lived, Aunt and Uncle Yushkof. Despite the pall of death, loss of innocence and upheavals in living arrangements, Leo started preparations for the entrance examinations to Kazan University, wanting to enter the faculty of Oriental languages. He studied Arabic, Turkish, Latin, German, English, and French, and geography, history, and religion. He also began in earnest studying the literary works of English, Russian and French authors including Charles Dickens, Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol, Mikhail Lermontov, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Laurence Sterne, Friedrich Schiller, and Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire.

In 1844, at the age of sixteen and the end of what Tolstoy says was his childhood, and the beginning of his youth, he entered the University of Kazan to study Turco-Arabic literature. While he did not graduate beyond the second year (he would later attempt to study law) this period of his life also corresponded with his coming out into society. He and his brothers moved out of their uncle’s home and secured their own rooms. No longer the provincial, there were balls and galas to attend and other such manly pursuits as drinking, gambling and visiting brothels. Tolstoy did not have much success as a student, but he would become a polyglot with at least some working knowledge of a dozen languages. He did not respond to the universities’ conventional system of learning and left in 1847 without obtaining his degree.

I liked this autobiographical fiction more than I did the first book, Childhood, because this is told with much sarcasm and irony.  Tolstoy admits to all the foolish things he did when a teenager and tells everything with much humour.


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