The Devil by Leo Tolstoy

Um, I truly don’t even know what to say about this book. Tolstoy kept it hidden until after his death when it was found and published. And I can see why. Here’s my synopsis of the book.

Young man is horny so he sleeps with another man’s wife. Repeatedly. Young man gets married but can’t stop thinking of the woman he used to sleep with. She’s hired to work for his family and while his wife is pregnant and bed ridden and at risk of losing the baby, he still desires the other woman intensely and is only stopped by someone else from acting on his desires. Other woman becomes “the devil” in his mind. Not gonna give away the ending, but BOTH of the endings (there’s an alternate ending included) only make it worse.

That’s basically it. Seriously, not leaving anything out here or trying to slant it to look like he’s worse than he is. This is actually the story.

I don’t really need to give any commentary here….if you know me, you know what I’m thinking. All that being said, I do think that Tolstoy was an amazing writer. That’s an interesting debate….can you find a story disgusting and still appreciate the writing? After reading this, I think I can say yes.There’s something about his writing that makes me clutch a book closer while wanting to hum it across the room…..that doesn’t happen often.

I read that this story was probably the most revealing thing he ever wrote. That he himself had an affair while he was married. I’m guessing that this book was a mix of Tolstoy punishing himself and/or making himself feel better. Telling his tale, maybe making this other guy look worse than he was. Maybe trying to justify what he did to himself. Needless to say, I don’t think it’s justifiable, but it did make for one of the more thought provoking pieces of writing I read this year….


6 Responses

  1. Love your candor. Sounds like he was trying to purge himself in some way..Just a tad…lol

  2. LOL I did a Russian unit in college on Tolstoy’s letters, and they made me pretty much loathe him as a man. I think that’s why I’ve only read AK and W&P (in which I strongly disliked the character most obviously modeled after himself); I’m afraid his shorter stuff will get on my nerves. But I do plan on trying The Death of Ivan Ilyich this year: after all, my dislike for him didn’t stop me loving AK and W&P!

  3. Sounds frankly awful. But, I like what Kelly had to say — definitely a candid review. And, Eva – I could not stand The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Horrible. Haven’t read any of his novels.

    So, Chris, I just read all the backlog of reviews/posts I’ve missed. You’ve been an active blogger! There’s too much to comment on, but I had fun reading everything! I’m just back from vacation. You should come visit me if you’re around. Missed you!

  4. ha ha ha! I laughed at your synopsis….

  5. LOVED the last line to this review! and all else I can say is, ‘Huh.’

  6. What a great review. I love Tolstoy, even though his characters are often despicable. But I have a thing for Russian writers. Still, love your review! Haven’t read this one yet…

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