Magazine October 18, 2021, Issue

Russian Souls

Russian writer Leo Tolstoy telling a story to his grandchildren (Photos.com/Getty Images)

COVID has been like college, only better. I have been able to do a lot of reading, minus girlfriend trouble. At first I read Sherlock Holmes. But I branched out to other classics, all aloud.

Why do the Russians loom so large in our imagination? Quality, of course. Then, timing. They hit just as the English novel was losing steam; Dickens had to hand the baton to somebody. Exotics are interesting (all those versts and samovars). Communism gave them a second wind: Maybe they could help us understand the Enemy. In returning to them I aimed high: War and Peace and

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