The pages of Andrei Zorin's new biography of Tolstoy abound with such insanity. What emerges is a short and concise portrait of a man erupting with uncontainable and extreme humanities. In his youth, for instance, we learn that Tolstoy kept his privates drenched in the debaucheries of Russian brothels all the while yearning for the lofty heights of a practiced Christian chastity. In his middle age he produced the two greatest novels ever written and then dismissed them both (and all art really, even King Lear) as worthless. Peasant folklore and religious fables were cool though. Throughout his life he remained what he was born as: a fabulously wealthy Russian aristocrat. Yet, he dressed in peasant clothes and prefered the stern labor of pre-industrial agriculture to the effete salons of the Petersburg and Moscow elite. This is a man who set a goal for himself of establishing a new religion that would "give bliss on earth" and "refute nearly 2,000 years of errors, self-deceit and outright lies and present to the world the real, unadulterated word of Christ." He did it too. It's called the Tolstoyan Movement and it became a global phenomena. In addition, he wrote extensively on anarcho-pacifism and the English language collection of these works, Government is Violence, proved very influential on my teenage years. Naturally, Tolstoy got in trouble with both the church and the state. The Russian Orthodox Church excommunicated him. The Russian government, not exactly averse to assassination, thoughtfully refrained from taking any action against him though. Smart. Turns out the old man was wildly popular with the people.
He'll be popular with you too if you pick up this biography or any of his classic novels and story collections. Do it now.