Thursday, August 04, 2005

"The Porcelain Doll" by Leo Tolstoy

The writer, Tolstoy himself, is under the impression that his wife has turned into a porcelain doll. And for a time, they both rather like it. Read by Jonathan Strong.

This story is contained within a letter written by Leo Tolstoy to his sister-in-law Tanya, the model for Natasha in War and Peace. The letter was begun by Tolstoy's wife, Sonya, half a year after they were married, but finished by Leo himself. (Perhaps Sonya really had turned into a porcelain doll--for a while, at least!) The first winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Tolstoy was perhaps the greatest writer and thinker of nineteenth-century Russia. His epic novel War and Peace covers nearly two-thousand pages, but this tiny story is contained within only three. You of course know or have heard of Anna Karenina and Resurrection, his other two novels, and most likely know, too, that he wrote numerous novellas, war stories, an autobiography, and plays. At the end of his life he gave up fiction for religious philosophy, but not before having already been a huge influence on all Russian (and world) literature to come.

Jonathan Strong needs no introduction here, but you can check out reprints of some of his older books at

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