Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (1828 -1910) is widely considered one of the greatest novelists of all time, principally for his War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1878). George Steiner has praised him as ‘a colossus bestriding the palpable earth, evoking the realness, the tangibility, the sensible entirety of concrete experience.’
Born in Yasnaya Polyana to a family of old Russian nobility, Tolstoy would abandon his university studies to spend time in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, running up significant gambling debts before travelling with his older brother to the Caucasus and joined the army. He began his writing career in the 1850s, publishing an autobiographical trilogy: Childhood (1852), Boyhood (1854) and Youth (1857). He served in the Crimean War and wrote the much-admired Sevastopol Sketches (1855-56). After travelling in Europe Tolstoy settled to family life and the composition of his major works. He would also describe his conversion to Christianity in Confessions (1879) and produce the novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1884) and the novel Resurrection (1900) prior to his death in 1910.