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by Leo Tolstoy
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Confession is Leo Tolstoy's memoir of midlife spiritual crisis. In 1879, having written War and Peace and Anna Karenina, the 51 year-old Tolstoy began to believe that his life was meaningless. Confession is his account of the limited satisfactions he derived from his aesthetic and intellectual triumphs, and of his first yearnings for real faith. This book marks the turning point in his career as a writer: after 1880 he would write almost exclusively about religious life, especially devotion among the peasantry (in works such as The Death of Ivan Ilych and Resurrection). Near the end of Confession, Tolstoy describes the desolation he felt upon deciding that he could not solve his crisis of faith by taking refuge in the church. "I have no doubt that there is truth in the doctrine," he writes, "but there can also be no doubt that it harbors a lie; and I must find the truth and the lie so I can tell them apart." Confession does not find the full Truth, but it offers an inspiring example of a man rejecting the lies that cling to unthinking orthodoxy. Its final, exhilarating, heart-rending account of a spiritually awakening dream ranks with the best of Christian mystical writing. --Michael Joseph Gross
A Confession -- an essay by Leo Tolstoy on his religious thoughts -- shows the great author in process of looking for answers to profound questions that trouble all who take them on: "What will come of my life?" and "What is the meaning of life?": these are questions whose answers were an absolute requirement for Tolstoy. In the course of the essay, Tolstoy shows different attempts to find answers on the examples of science, philosophy, eastern wisdom and the opinions of his fellow novelists. . . . finding no workable solution in any of these, Tolstoy recognizes the deep religious convictions of ordinary people as containing the key to true answers.
Text: English, Russian (translation)
My life came to a standstill. I could breathe, eat, drink, and sleep, and I could not help doing these things; but there was no life, for there were no wishes the fulfillment of which I could consider reasonable. If I desired anything, I knew in advance that whether I satisfied my desire or not, nothing would come of it. Had a fairy come and offered to fulfil my desires I should not have know what to ask.
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