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Russian author Leo Tolstoy wrote the acclaimed novels War and Peace, Anna Karenina and The Death of Ivan Ilyich, and still ranks among the world's top writers.
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In the midst of the Crimean War, Tolstoy also expressed his views on the striking contradictions of war through a three-part series, Sevastopol Tales. In the second Sevastopol Tales book, Tolstoy experimented with a relatively new writing technique: Part of the story is presented in the form of a soldier's stream of consciousness.
Once the Crimean War ended and Tolstoy left the Army, he returned to Russia. Back home,
the burgeoning author found himself in high demand on the St. Petersburg literary scene. Stubborn and arrogant, Tolstoy refused to ally himself with any particular intellectual school of thought. Declaring himself an anarchist, he made off to Paris in 1857. Once there, he gambled away all of his money and was forced to return home to Russia. He also managed to publish Youth, the third part of his autobiographical trilogy, in 1857.
Back in Russia in 1862, Tolstoy produced the first of a 12 issue-installment of the journal Yasnaya Polyana, marrying a doctor's daughter named Sofya Andreyevna Bers that same year.
Residing at Yasnaya Polyana with his wife and children, Tolstoy spent the better part of the 1860s toiling over his first great novel, War and Peace. A portion of the novel was first published in the Russian Messenger in 1865, under the title "The Year 1805." By 1868, he had released three more chapters. A year later, the novel was complete. Both critics and the public were buzzing about the novel's historical accounts of the Napoleonic Wars, combined with its thoughtful development of realistic yet fictional characters. The novel also uniquely incorporated three long essays satirizing the laws of history. Among the ideas that Tolstoy extols in War and Peace is the belief that the quality and meaning of one's life is mainly derived from his day-to-day activities.
Following the success of War and Peace, in 1873, Tolstoy set to work on the second of his best known novels, Anna Karenina. Anna Karenina was partially based on current events while Russia was at war with Turkey. Like War and Peace, it fictionalized some biographical events from Tolstoy's life, as was particularly evident in the romance of the characters Kitty and Levin, whose relationship is said to resemble Tolstoy's courtship with his own wife.
The first sentence of Anna Karenina is among the most famous lines of the book: "All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Anna Karenina was published in installments from 1873 to 1877, to critical and public acclaim. The royalties that Tolstoy earned from the novel contributed to his rapidly growing wealth.
Despite the success of Anna Karenina, following the novel's completion, Tolstoy suffered a spiritual crisis and grew depressed. Struggling to uncover the meaning of life, Tolstoy first went to the Russian Orthodox Church, but did not find the answers he sought there. He came to believe that Christian churches were corrupt and, in lieu of organized religion, developed his own beliefs.
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