The Liberation of Tolstoy. A Tale of Two Writers

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Ivan Bunin. The Liberation of Tolstoy. A Tale of Two Writers. Thomas G. Marullo and Vladimir T. Khmelkov, eds. and trans. Studies in Russian Literature and Theory. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2001. xxxvi, 364 pp. Notes. Index. $35.00, cloth.

Significantly, the dustcover of this book features only a picture of Tolstoy with the result that the reader may well wonder whether it will, in fact, deal with the tale of two writers, or just one: Tolstoy. Of the 353 pages of text, 145 contain the translation of Bunin's Liberation, and 208 the extremely lengthy annotations by Professor Marullo which, in general, are only loosely connected with Bunin's text. This gives rise to the legitimate question of whether Professor Marullo's real aim was, via the back door, not so much to translate Bunin, but to write his own version of Tolstoy's life, writings, and doctrines. In itself this would have been not so bad, but what is much worse is the fact that the composition of the annotations is annoyingly unscientific. A number of the references to Tolstoy's writings are to the Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, but the bulk is not. And why not? One could have imagined that Marullo preferred to refer the reader to a well-known English translation, as, for instance, the Tolstoy Centenary Edition, but that is, unfortunately, not the case. The lengthy annotations, sometimes encompassing more than two pages, usually contain three or four quotations, but, without separate references. Instead, at the end of the footnote, Marullo refers the reader to the writings of several authors, such as Simmons, Leon, Wilson, and Troyat. Even so, far too many quotations remain without reference: on p. 187, the rumour that Tolstoy had been arrested; on pp. 198-99, Father Ambrose's letter to Tolstoy; on p. 230, Buddha's reply to Mara; on p. 209, Chertkov's letter to Tolstoy; on p. 279, the quotation from Resurrection; on p. 287, Botkin's letter to Tolstoy; on p. 293, the quotation from Childhood; on p. 337, about the Gorchakov and Trubetskoi families. Even more annoying, though, are the instances where, within the source mentioned, there is no reference to the given subject matter: on p. 241 of Baboreko, LA. Bunin. Materialy, nothing is said about Bunin's Buddhistic interests (p. 170); p. 381 of Simmons, Leo Tolstoy, I does not exist (p. 191); there is no mention of Tolstoy's sexual desire in the same Simmons, pp. 133, 34 (p. 207); or on p. 135 of the same volume of Sofya Andreevna's threats and attempts at suicide; there is nothing about the national mourning for Tolstoy in Baboreko, Materialy on p. 151 (p. 253). Quite frequently Marullo changes the wording of the source he uses, as for instance, when he quotes from Leon's, Tolstoy. On p. 234 Leon says about the alterations in Tolstoy's character as noticed by Polonsky: "...like a man regenerated, penetrated by another faith, by another love." Marullo writes: "Tolstoy appeared to me to be reborn and imbued with a different faith, a different love" (p. 240). With reference to 'olstoy's horror when he witnessed a public execution by guillotine in Paris, Marullo quotes Simmons (p. 170). But the last line "The only ideal is anarchy" (p. 291) is not in Simmons. Marullo claims to quote Tolstoy's letter to Fet of 17 October 1860 in full (p. 347), but the passage in his sources (Simmons and Leon) it is considerably longer. …