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list price: $34.99
edition:Audiobook
also available: Hardcover eBook
category: Biography & Autobiography
published: Jul 2019
ISBN:9780776628684
publisher: University of Ottawa Press

My Life

by Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya, edited by Andrew Donskov, translated by John Woodsworth & Arkadi Klioutchanski, read by Ann Sanders

tagged: women, personal memoirs, russian & former soviet union
Description

The Modern Language Association (MLA) awarded the Lois Roth Award to John Woodsworth and Arkadi Klioutchanski of the University of Ottawa’s Slavic Research Group for their translation of Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya’s My Life memoirs.

My Life was selected among the top 100 non-fiction works of 2010 by The Globe and Mail.
It has also won an honourable mention in the Biography and Autobiography category of the 2010 American Publishers Awards for the Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE) awards.
And, finally, it made it into the Association of American University Presses' 2011 Book, Jacket and Journal Show.

One hundred years after his death, Leo Tolstoy continues to be regarded as one of the world’s most accomplished writers. Historically, little attention has been paid to his wife Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya. Acting in the capacity of literary assistant, translator, transcriber, and editor, she played an important role in the development of her husband’s career. Her memoirs – which she titled My Life – lay dormant for almost a century. Now their first-time-ever appearance in Russia is complemented by an unabridged and annotated English translation.

Tolstaya’s story takes us from her childhood through the early years of her marriage, the writing of War and Peace and Anna Karenina and into the first year of the twentieth century. She paints an intimate and honest portrait of her husband’s character, providing new details about his life to which she alone was privy. She offers a better understanding of Tolstoy’s character, his qualities and failings as a husband and a father, and forms a picture of the quintessential Tolstoyan character which underlies his fiction.

My Life also reveals that Tolstaya was an accomplished author in her own right—as well as a translator, amateur artist, musician, photographer, and businesswoman—a rarity in the largely male-dominated world of the time. She was actively involved in the relief efforts for the 1891–92 famine and the emigration of the Doukhobors in 1899. She was a prolific correspondent, in touch with many prominent figures in Russian and Western society. Guests in her home ranged from peasants to princes, from anarchists to artists, from composers to philosophers. Her descriptions of these personalities read as a chronicle of the times, affording a unique portrait of late-19th- and early-20th-century Russian society, ranging from peasants to the Tsar himself.

My Life is the most important primary document about Tolstoy to be published in many years and a unique and intimate portrait of one of the greatest literary minds of all time.

About the Authors

Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya


Andrew Donskov, member of the Royal Society of Canada, is Distinguished Professor at the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures of the University of Ottawa. His research focuses on Russian theatre and drama during the nineteenth century, Russian peasant literature, the Doukhobors, and the literary career of Leo Tolstoy. He received the Tolstoy Medal for Distinguished Contributions to Tolstoy Studies, awarded by the L.N. Tolstoy Museum in Moscow, in 2015.

Andrew Donskov, member of the Royal Society of Canada, is Distinguished Professor at the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures of the University of Ottawa. His research focuses on Russian theatre and drama during the nineteenth century, Russian peasant literature, the Doukhobors, and the literary career of Leo Tolstoy. He received the Tolstoy Medal for Distinguished Contributions to Tolstoy Studies, awarded by the L.N. Tolstoy Museum in Moscow, in 2015.

Andrew Donskov, member of the Royal Society of Canada, is Distinguished Professor at the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures of the University of Ottawa. His research focuses on Russian theatre and drama during the nineteenth century, Russian peasant literature, the Doukhobors, and the literary career of Leo Tolstoy. He received the Tolstoy Medal for Distinguished Contributions to Tolstoy Studies, awarded by the L.N. Tolstoy Museum in Moscow, in 2015.

Andrew Donskov, member of the Royal Society of Canada, is Distinguished Professor at the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures of the University of Ottawa. His research focuses on Russian theatre and drama during the nineteenth century, Russian peasant literature, the Doukhobors, and the literary career of Leo Tolstoy. He received the Tolstoy Medal for Distinguished Contributions to Tolstoy Studies, awarded by the L.N. Tolstoy Museum in Moscow, in 2015.
Contributor Notes

Andrew Donskov is professor of Russian Literature and director of the Slavic Research Group at the University of Ottawa. He has authored and edited many books on Tolstoy, including Leo Tolstoy and the Canadian Doukhobors (Carleton University Centre for Research on Canadian-Russian Relations, 2005).    John Woodsworth is a research associate with the Slavic Research Group at the University of Ottawa and a member of the Literary Translators' Association of Canada. He has been a professional translator for over forty-five years and has translated more than 20 books.   Arkadi Klioutchanski is a doctoral student of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto. He is a research associate with the Slavic Research Group at the University of Ottawa, where he also teaches Russian.

Awards
  • Winner, AAUP Book, Jacket, and Journal Show, Scholarly Typographic
  • Short-listed, PROSE Award, Honorable Mention, Biography & Autobiography - Association of American Publishers - Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division
  • Winner, Lois Roth Award - MLA (translation award to John Woodsworth and Arkadi Klioutchanski)
  • Winner, The Globe and Mail Top 100 – Non-fiction
Editorial Reviews

"...uOttawa scholar and world-renowned Lev Tolstoy expert, Andrew Donskov, spent years producing what is being considered one of the most scholarly and important contributions on Tolstoy. Indeed, such a success will not only affect Tolstoy fans and academics all over the world, but it will also help to bolster Slavonic studies at the University of Ottawa." - The Fish "uOttawa Makes History"

— "uOttawa Makes History"

"Neither Dostoevsky nor Tolstoy would be such giants without their wives. Sonya Tolstoy's voice leaps from these 1,018 pages: motherhood, the intimacies and furies of a long marriage, the agony of public life, the cooling of her husband's affections. Her closing words, 'the absence of any biased forethought (means that) everything here is true and sincere,' remind us of the living force of a diary unfolding over a lifetime, as opposed to an autobiography."


Sofia Andreevna’s My Life is a monumental work in many ways (…) My Life exhibits such a wealth of vivid impressions that reading it gives one a sense of what it was like to live in Russia in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The volume is also a monument of exacting and thoughtful research as well as lucid, eminently readable translation. (…) My Life is priceless for its many candid eyewitness portraits of personages important to historians and scholars of Russia’s arts (…) (It is v)aluable for its uniquely down- to-earth vignettes of life in their time: fighting a house fire with buckets, worrying about the malign moral influence of neighboring peasant boys on their sons at Yasnaya Polyana, sleeping under the stars at Samara, playing Haydn symphonies in piano four-hands arrangements, and most haunting of all, breastfeeding their moribund infants. (…) My Life is also a considerable achievement in that Sofia Andreevna vividly conveys herself as an involved, indeed feisty, woman of her times, yet also one willing to candidly share her sensuality and fantasies of having an affair. The Tolstoy Museum and the translators are to be thanked for this massive and extremely complicated labor of evident love. Andrew Donskov introduces it with a disciplined account of both her life and their painstaking Methods. (…) It is incredible that they managed to translate, edit, and organize this massive text with such consistency in so little time in order to be published simultaneously with the original.

Version of Record online: 3 SEP 2012, DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9434.2012.00674.x

— Volume 71, Issue 4

"...the memoirs detail Leo Tolstory's mannerisms, talents, and strengths in the roles he fulfilled as husband, father, and writer. (...) '[My Life] offers a rich opportunity for further investigation by both young and seasoned researchers (...) This is a truly remarkable piece of literature.'"

— Charlotte Bailey

“As the archives have opened up, the tide has turned. The Leo Tolstoy State Museum allowed Andrew Donskov, a Russian scholar at the University of Ottawa, to bring out an English translation of My Life, published in 2010 by the University of Ottawa Press, and to publish her collected literary works in Russian.”

— William Grimes

“The demythologization is bracing; it expands our awareness of the complex internal life of the great writer. Sofia’s text will provide further stimulus for Tolstoy scholarship. Its rich real-life details provide material both for historians and literary scholars. The book is well translated and splendidly edited.”

— University of Toronto Quarterly, 82:3, pp. 589-590

“... it expands our awareness of the complex internal life of the great writer. Sofia’s text will provide further stimulus for Tolstoy scholarship. Its rich real-life details provide material both for historians and literary scholars.

The book is well translated and splendidly edited. It contains a poetry appendix, 39 Russian poems cited by the author (some are her own), 110 illustrations, 4 pages of genealogical tables, a bibliography, chapter outline, index of Tolstoy’s works cited, and a footnote index.”

-Myroslav Shkandrij, Department of German and Slavic Studies, University of ManitobaUniversity of Toronto Quarterly Volume 82, Number 3, Summer 2013

— Reviews

The story of how the University of Ottawa Press acquired this essential document of Russian literature is as interesting as the book itself, which is considerably. Married to a literary colossus for 48 years, and herself a woman of character and great intelligence, Tolstaya provides, in this huge work, enormous insights not only into Tolstoy and their marriage, but into Russian life. A real find. 

— Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston
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