Title: The Last Station: A Novel of Tolstoy's Last Year.
Author: Jay Parini.
Genre: Fiction, literature, romance, family saga.
Publication Date: 1990.
Summary: A novelization of the last days of Leo Tolstoy. The book focuses on the tension between Sofya Andreyevna, Tolstoy's wife, and his latter-day retinue of assorted sycophants, led by Vladimir Chertkov.
My rating: 9/10
♥ For moral man (that is, for the body alone) time exists: that is, hours, days, months, and years pass. For the body alone, there also exists the physical world - what can be seen, touched by the hands. What is big or little, hard or soft, durable or fragile. But the soul is timeless; it merely resides in the human body. The I that I spoke of seventy years ago is the same I I refer to now. Nor does the soul have anything physical about it. Wherever I am, no matter what happens, my soul, the I that I refer to, stays the same and is always nonphysical. Thus, time exists only for the body. For the soul, time and place and the physical world have no reality. Therefore, we can't really ask what will happen to the soul or where, after death, it will go, because the phrase will be suggests time, and the word where suggests place. Neither time nor place has meaning for the soul once the physical body has ceased to be.
That speculations about life after death or heaven and hell are shallow and mistaken should by now be clear. If the soul were going somewhere to live after death, it would be somewhere before birth. But nobody seems to notice that.
♥ It is the fear of death that hangs like a buzzard over mankind's head, a perpetual torment. As Leo Nikolayevich has said, one should whisk that fear away. Say, "Be gone, buzzard!" And then comes freedom.
♥ "There can be no improvement in the condition of the Russian people," he said, "nor any people, through revolution that does not exist on a moral basis. A moral basis presupposes that force will not be used."
♥ It's easy to praise people. To point out faults is another matter.
♥ Tact is among the more socially useful forms of insincerity.
♥ In my teens, I found myself drawn to indecent images and thoughts. I realize now that the issue of decency is bogus. Is it deceit for the tsar to force young Russian men to kill young men from other countries, in the most brutal ways? Is it decent for society to allow people to starve in the streets, to die alone in miserable little isbas, to live like rats in Moscow sewers? Slavery of any kind - economic, military, social - is indecent. But sexual activity, how men and women choose to combine their physical parts, is completely neutral.
♥ In the thickest part of Zasyeka, Papa's favorite haunt, is a small trail that leads to a spring at the bottom of the woods. A pool of clear water has formed in one spot, and the horses drink there. We call it Wolves' Well. Nearby, a family of badgers live like kings in a dusty hillock. They burrow into deep dens that branch into a maze of connecting tunnels. Papa occasionally brings his favorite dogs - Tiulpan and Tsygan - here; they are crazy for badgers, scratching away at the hillock with a wild hope of unearthing them.
Papa says that writing is like that: you keep scratching away at the dirt, hoping a badger might run out. But it rarely does.
♥ In essence, once resistance was allowed to exist side by side with love, love could no longer continue as a fundamental law. The only law that survived was the law of strength - the power of the stronger over the weaker. This is how, for nineteen centuries, Christians have lived. I grant that, at all times, people have mostly been guided by violence as they sought to organize their lives. The only difference between Christian civilization and the others is that Christianity has expressed this contradiction clearly. At the same time, while Christians accept this law, they disregard it in the private lives. Hence, Christians live a contradiction, basing their lives on violence while professing love. This contradiction continued to grow as the Christian world progressed, and it has reached new heights recently. The question now becomes this: either we recognize that we don't follow any religious or moral teaching and are guided by the power of the strong, or we recognize that all our taxes have been collected by force, and that our institutions (our courts, our police, but - above all - our armies) must be abolished.
♥ Walking back to Yasnaya Polyana in the midst of the crowd, we said nothing more about where we were going or why or when. We were carried along, buyoed up, by a thousand singing voices, men and women who loved Tolstoy as much as we did, who understood, as he did, that death was simply one of life's many transformations, and that nothing mattered in the world but love.