Reading Sophia Tolstaya Diaries

Some time ago, my friend posted several blog posts about Sophia Tolstaya, Leo Tolstoy’s wife’s Diaries. These posts prompted me to start reading.

It is a massive book; the diaries cover all her marital life, and at first, I wondered why I even started reading it and whether it is worth finishing. I never hesitate to drop the book if it does not feel engaging; that’s why my booklists end up being relatively short.

I had a completely different impression about Tolstoy and Sophia Tolstaya and their family life than my friend did. At some point, I thought that “I already got it,” and there is no reason to keep reading over and over about similar activities day by day, about the visitors, etc. But to my surprise, I found myself drawn to that book, and the more into the book, the more I got interested.

I tried to start this post several times, but it doesn’t feel easy. There are so many things I want to say about these dairies, but whatever I want to say feels too intimate.

Traditionally, Sophia Tolstaya is viewed as a dull woman with a bad character who didn’t understand her genius husband’s ideas and made his life miserable. However, her dairies present a completely different personality. I really like her :). She was like me in so many ways, I can’t even tell. In the preface written by her son, he says that usually, the families’ inner life is hidden from the eyes of the outsiders. Still, everybody knew about Tolstoy’s family life.

Which is true:). People usually do not make these kind of information public. Even though I was always very open about all life events in my blogs, I never wrote about my personal life, except for the very close group of friends. And when nobody talks about these impossible situations, you think that you are unique and everybody else have a normal family life, and you have god-knows-what. I do not want to give any quotations because anything I would cite would reveal too much about me. But I can tell that I could recognize the situations and even dialogs. When I got close to the end of the book, I was endlessly quoting it to Boris, telling him how many pitfalls we surpassed. I know precisely what are the feelings and sequences of words and actions which lead from “I have the best marriage ever” to “he never loved me, and he wants to kill me.” I am happy that we learned how not to go on this downward spiral, but boy, how well I remember!

Also, I had a very comforting feeling that it’s OK to be madly in love at an older age:). I used to think it is almost inappropriate to have strong feelings at our age, but now I know it’s OK for at least another twelve years:). And you may laugh at me s much as you want, but it was really comforting :).

I never read a book that would feel so personal (although the reason I love Tolstoy is exactly that: most of his books feel very personal and “recognizable”). I think it is partially because people do not write about such things, even in their diaries, and if they write, their diaries are not becoming public. And they are not becoming public, because nobody is interested in the romantic life of people in their later 50s and older.:)

4 thoughts on “Reading Sophia Tolstaya Diaries

  1. I would not comment about your personal feelings, of course, but I am very glad that you found Sophia Tolstaya an intelligent and interesting person, as I did. From the 1909-1910 entries, it’s easy to get an erroneous impression that we indeed have a case of some crazy and unpleasant woman, but very soon after this, it becomes obvious that this was just a serious acute crisis, apparently induced by a series of unfortunate events and painful concerns, while all the years before and after this, Sophia Tolstaya was always a very rational and clear mind, always hard-working (until the very last days of her life), always thinking independently, and always loving her family, even if the family was unfair or cruel to her. I liked and respected her very much and sympathized with many of her words.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. She definitely had some prejudgements common in the society at that time, but who does not have them? She felt very live and humane, and very far from the cardboard figure I used to imagine before.


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