Tolstoy's Aesthetics and His Art

Rimvydas Silbajoris

Among the many paradoxes in Tolstoy's thought and action there is the dichotomy between his tremendous authority as an artist and his supposedly inconsequential, wrong-headed views on aesthetics, expressed in the treatise What is Art? The conventional view is that for many complex and obscure reasons Tolstoy in his old age abandoned all his artistic accomplishments and all his understanding of art, replacing them both with a morality that had the sour, peevish smell of a hidden hostility to life. Proceeding from the premise that Tolstoy's aesthetic theories must always be seen in context of, and not separately from his art, the present book takes a radically different position. Tolstoy's views on art have been thoroughly consistent from the very beginning, and his own great works embody exactly the same aesthetic values as were later formulated in What is Art? The illusion of discrepancy arises from failure to perceive that one and the same idea will look very different when it is presented as an argument in a treatise, and when it is conveyed as complex human experience in a novel. Thus, the aim here is to reveal the profound integrity and wholeness of Tolstoy's art and thought. "Scholars interested in Tolstoyan aesthetics will find much relevant information expertly presented in this book." (Choice) "Silbajoris's reading of Tolstoi is thus successfully corrective, astutely synthetic and a welcome new appreciation of the power of Tolstoi's aesthetics and his art." (SR) "...he leads us to an even deeper and fuller appreciation of Tolstoy's genius." (RR)