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TSJ publishes its first monograph!

Scheduled for release in fall 2019...


Tolstoy’s On Life. From the Archival History of Russian Philosophy-- by Inessa Medzhibovskaya

In this first book-length study of Tolstoy’s meditation on death, life, love, and happiness, Inessa Medzhibovskaya focuses on unknown documents and stories that illuminate the realities of Russian philosophical culture at the end of the long nineteenth century. Special attention is paid to Tolstoy’s involvement with the Moscow Psychological Society and its periodicals, to his friendship with its longtime Chairman Nikolai Grot, and to Tolstoy’s interactions with such outstanding figures of Russian thought as Nikolai Strakhov, Nikolai Fedorov, Lev Lopatin, and Vladimir Soloviev. What was Tolstoy’s relationship to Grot—the relation of a genius to a scribe, or a mentor to a disciple? What did it mean to be elected a distinguished member of the Moscow Psychological Society? Who were the other members? What was the nature of the critical exchanges around On Life between Tolstoy, his family and friends, and other Russian thinkers, scientists, and artists? Bookending the volume is an extensive historical appendix. Here the reader will find documents published in English for the first time.



The appearance of this scrupulously researched volume in the wake of Medzhibovskaya’s edition of On Life (Northwestern University Press, 2019) is a godsend for students of the late Tolstoy: first the scholarly edition, then the scholar’s sources, contexts, feeding grounds, backstories, and fine-grained intellectual secrets. It is archival history because we hover over the shoulder of the most thoroughly documented writer of the 19th-century—and learn something new. What induces Tolstoy, rebel and autodidact, to take a serious interest in academic philosophy and its institutional rituals? Shaping her archive, Medzhibovskaya has a gift for the telling detail. This is Tolstoy at his living, breathing, most honest best.

Caryl Emerson, Princeton University

With enviable erudition and literary grace, Inessa Medzhibovskaia recreates the saga of Tolstoy’s personal meditation on life and death, freedom and happiness. Historians will appreciate her detailed and archival-based chronicle of the process by which Tolstoy created On Life. She describes the near-death experience that occasioned the meditation and presents the people with whom he interacted as he wrote it. Even those who know Tolstoy’s work well will experience it from a new vantage point. For others, the book will prove an evocative and moving intellectual adventure. This study is at once an important work of intellectual history and a readable recreation of a pivotal moment in the biography of the great author. It belongs in the libraries of all scholars of the cultural life of Russia in the late nineteenth century and the institutions that host them.

Jeffrey Brooks, Johns Hopkins University

About the Author

Inessa Medzhibovskaya teaches at The New School in New York City. Her previous books include Tolstoy and the Religious Culture of His Time; Tolstoy, On Life: A Critical Edition; Tolstoy and His Problems: View from the Twenty-First Century; and A Critical Guide to Tolstoy’s On Life.


Dedication . ix

Acknowledgments . xi

Abbreviations . xiii

Archival Credits. xvii

A Note on the Text . xix

Epigraph. xxi

Introduction: On Life in and beyond the Archive. 3

Chapter 1: Grot and Tolstoy Edit the Proofs of On Life. 25

Chapter 2: The Genius and the Scribe

(A History of a Friendship in Letters). 41

Chapter 3: Where all the Radii Meet: The Philosophical

Centers of Grot and Tolstoy. 55

Chapter 4: The Philosophical Laughter:

Moscow in the 1880s. 75

Chapter 5: Reasonable Consciousness and the Freedom

of the Will at The Moscow Psychological Society . 93

Chapter 6: The Birds of Russian Idealism: Science and

Spiritualism at The Moscow Psychological Society . 141

Chapter 7: The Unsent Letter of Vladimir Soloviev . 181

Chapter 8: What Every Peasant Already Knows

and the Comedy of Enlightenment . 221

Coda: On the Courage of Resigning Oneself to the Ideal . 267

Notes to Chapters . 271

Works Cited. 325


/selected, translated, and annotated by Inessa Medzhibovskaya/

Transcripts of “The Concept of Life,” Tolstoy’s Presentation

at Moscow Psychological Society 14 March 1887 . 343

Minutes of the Sessions of the Moscow Psychological

Society in 1887 (Related to Tolstoy’s talk on

March 14, 1887). 362

Documents Related to Tolstoy’s Election to Distinguished

Member of Moscow Psychological Society,

January 24, 1894 . 365

The Unsent Letter of Vladimir Soloviev to Lev Tolstoy

(Two Versions) . 368

Nikolai Grot’s Works in Tolstoy’s Personal Library . 380

Questions of Philosophy and Psychology in Tolstoy’s

Personal Library . 389

Transactions of the Moscow Psychological Society in

Tolstoy’s Personal Library . 393

Notes to Historical Appendix. 394

Index of Terms. 401

Index of Names and Titles. 409

About the Author . 417

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