Richard Davenporthines

Hero or villein?

‘Not one word’, exclaimed Turgenev of Tolstoy, ‘not one movement of his is natural! He is eternally posing before us!’

The recurrent underlying theme of A.N. Wilson’s prize-winning biography of Tolstoy, now re-issued after a quarter of a century, is the novelist as grand impersonator. Wilson (a prolific novelist himself) believes that there is a strong impulse in novelists to don masks or test alter egos, and that this impulse rioted in Tolstoy’s character.

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