The Kreutzer Sonata Variations Lev Tolstoy's Novella and Counterstories by Sofiya Tolstaya and Lev Lvovich Tolstoy Michael R. Katz, Ekaterina Tolstaya, Andrey Tolstoy

Publication date:
13 Nov 2014
Yale University Press
384 pages: 235 x 156 x 27mm
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A work unprecedented in world literature, this unique volume contains a new translation of Lev Tolstoy’s controversial novella The Kreutzer Sonata, which was initially banned by Russian censors. In addition, available to English readers for the first time is a fascinating and previously neglected constellation of counterstories written by the author’s wife and son in direct response to Tolstoy’s provocative tale, each a passionate attempt to undo the message of the original work. These radically conflicting tales, accompanied by excerpts from family letters, diaries, notes, and memoirs, provide readers with a vivid and highly revealing case study of the powerful disputes concerning sexuality and gender roles that erupted within the cultural context of late-nineteenth-century Russian, as well as European, society.

Michael Katz is the C.V. Starr Professor Emeritus of Russian and Eastern European Studies at Middlebury College. He is the author of two previous books on Russian literature and the translator of more than a dozen Russian novels into English, including major works by Herzen, Chernyshevsky, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Jabotinsky, and S. Ansky.

“Fictive words with the bite of reality to them were weapons of choice not only for Tolstoy, but for his wife and children. In this fascinating assemblage of stories and counterstories against one of the late great tales, Michael Katz shows us the family fighting back.”—Caryl Emerson, A. Watson Armour III University Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Princeton University 

“Over a hundred years after it was written The Kreutzer Sonata retains its ability to shock and disturb. Michael Katz’s superb introduction to the firestorm provoked by Tolstoy’s late novella includes a wealth of materials that were heretofore unavailable to English readers.”— William Mills Todd III, Harry Tuchman Levin Professor of Literature, Harvard University

“For anyone interested in Tolstoy or the modern understanding of marriage and sexuality, this volume will be indispensable. Containing fiction and commentary by Tolstoy, his wife and son that has never before been translated and only recently become known, it changes our understanding of one of Tolstoy’s most important works. This volume is an event in the understanding of Russian literature.” —Gary Morson, Frances Hooper Professor of the Arts and Humanities , Northwestern University

"Congratulations to Michael Katz with his excellent work as a translator, editor, and compiler! It is really important for all interested in Tolstoy's work and life to have Kreutzer Sonata and S.A. Tolstaya's constellation of stories under one cover. It's a great accomplishment!"—Galina Alekseeva, Yasnaya Polyana

The Kreutzer Sonata Variations has been assembled as a kind of dossier. Mr. Katz provides a new translation of Tolstoy’s story and surrounds it with material that sheds light on the furor that it touched off . . . The book adds momentum to a revisionist view of Sophia [Tolstoy] that has gathered speed recently.”—William Grimes, New York Times

The Kreutzer Sonata Variations . . . pairs Tolstoy’s controversial novella with the stories his wife and son wrote in pointed response, adding further shadings to the Russian author’s final chapter.”—Megan O’Grady, Vogue

“Sofiya Tolstoy can write! . . . [She] pulls off a remarkable structural feat in mirroring Kreutzer’s wife-murder plot from the point of view of the murdered wife. . . . Graceful, emotionally intuitive, and heartbreaking . . . a deeply affecting defense of love . . . Sofiya lives on in [her] astonishingly skillful novella.”—Ron Rosenbaum, Slate