(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Leo Tolstoy wrote “Divine and Human” as a chapter in the novel Voskreseniye (1899; Resurrection, 1899), but it was omitted when the novel was published, then rewritten and expanded. It is one of many pieces of shorter fiction Tolstoy wrote in the last decade or so of his life, with pronounced religious and Christian content, intended as educational incentives.

The three revolutionaries presented here differ in their approach to their zeal. The youngest of them, Anatoly Svetlogub, is of a rich family and is very intelligent and ambitious. He tries to help the disadvantaged as much as he can, but his heart is not fully in it; strangely, he even feels some shame while helping. His mother had high hopes that he would eventually attain a reasonably good position in society. Instead, as a young man he manages to get involved in the struggle for justice and reforms that marks the second half of the nineteenth century. He wants to help the poor and disadvantaged, but he is also attracted to the dangers involved in his revolutionary engagement. When explosives left in Svetlogub’s house by the leader of his revolutionary circle are discovered, the young man is imprisoned, convicted without definitive proof of a direct criminal act on his part, and hanged in the public square. As he presses the New Testament to his heart, he dies in peace and in the belief that all men are good and that all is well with the world. However, his mother, whose hopes that he would be set free are dashed, voices her disbelief in the kind of God that would allow such injustice to happen.

The irony of this injustice is that during the long incarceration,...

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(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Berlin, Isaiah. The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy’s View of History. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1953. A standard essay on Tolstoy’s view of history and the role of individuals in it, as applied to Tolstoy’s works, especially Voyna I mir (1865-1869; War and Peace, 1886).

Egan, David R., and Melinda A. Egan, eds. Leo Tolstoy: An Annotated Bibliography of English Sources from 1978 to 2003. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2005. Indispensable, though time limited, for students of Tolstoy, including sources on religion and all other aspects of his works.

Levin, Michael L. A Signature on a Portrait: Highlights of Tolstoy’s Thought. New York: Levin Press, 1994. Criticism and interpretation of major aspects of Tolstoy’s thinking, including spiritual and Christian aspects.

Matlaw, Ralph E., ed. Tolstoy: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1967. Essays on different aspects of Tolstoy’s life, works, and art, by various authors. With chronology of important dates and selected bibliography.

Poggioli, Renato. The Phoenix and the Spider. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1957. An astute analysis of psychological aspects of Tolstoy’s approach to literature.

Simmons, Ernest J. Leo Tolstoy. Boston: Atlantic, Little Brown, 1947. One of the best biographies of Tolstoy in English.