Top Tolstoy Quotes

Browse top 70 famous quotes and sayings about Tolstoy by most favorite authors.

Favorite Tolstoy Quotes

1. "I know very well you can't help me," he said. "But I tell you, because unsuccessful and superfluous people like me find their salvation in talking. I have to generalise about everything I do. I'm bound to look for an explanation and justification of my absurd existence in somebody else's theories, in literary types—in the idea that we, upper-class Russians, are degenerating, for instance, and so on. Last night, for example, I comforted myself by thinking all the time: 'Ah, how true Tolstoy is, how mercilessly true!' And that did me good. Yes, really, brother, he is a great writer, say what you like!" Samoylenko, who had never read Tolstoy and was intending to do so every day of his life, was a little embarrassed, and said: "Yes, all other authors write from imagination, but he writes straight from nature."
Author: Anton Chekhov
2. "One day at Fenner's (the university cricket ground at Cambridge), just before the last war, G. H. Hardy and I were talking about Einstein. Hardy had met him several times, and I had recently returned from visiting him. Hardy was saying that in his lifetime there had only been two men in the world, in all the fields of human achievement, science, literature, politics, anything you like, who qualified for the Bradman class. For those not familiar with cricket, or with Hardy's personal idiom, I ought to mention that "the Bradman class" denoted the highest kind of excellence: it would include Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Newton, Archimedes, and maybe a dozen others. Well, said Hardy, there had only been two additions in his lifetime. One was Lenin and the other Einstein."
Author: C.P. Snow
3. "We are not immune to the lure of wonder and mystery and awe: we have music and art and literature, and find that the serious ethical dilemmas are better handled by Shakespeare and Tolstoy and Schiller and Dostoyevsky and George Eliot than in the mythical morality tales of the holy books."
Author: Christopher Hitchens
4. "I was nothing more than a thug with Tolstoy in my pocket."
Author: David Adams Richards
5. "Tolstoy's wife copied out the entire manuscript of War and Peace in longhand seven times."
Author: David Markson
6. "[R]eality and real people are too subtle and complicated for anybody's typewriter, even Tolstoy's, even yours, even mine."
Author: Edward Abbey
7. "No. We never have read a line of Tolstoy. We studiously avoid doing so."
Author: Frederick Rolfe
8. "Listen, in dreams and especially in nightmares, from indigestion or anything, a man sees sometimes such artistic visions, such complex and real actuality, such events, even a whole world of events, woven into such a plot, with such unexpected details from the most exalted matters to the last button on a cuff, as I swear Leo Tolstoy has never invented."
Author: Fyodor Dostoyevsky
9. "The wild worship of lawlessness and the materialist worship of law end in the same void. Nietzsche scales staggering mountains, but he turns up ultimately in Tibet. He sits down beside Tolstoy in the land of nothing and Nirvana. They are both helpless—one because he must not grasp anything, and the other because he must not let go of anything. The Tolstoyan's will is frozen by a Buddhist instinct that all special actions are evil. But the Nietzscheite's will is quite equally frozen by his view that all special actions are good; for if all special actions are good, none of them are special. They stand at the crossroads, and one hates all the roads and the other likes all the roads. The result is—well, some things are not hard to calculate. They stand at the cross-roads."
Author: G.K. Chesterton
10. "There's no present left. This is the problem for a novelist. [The problem] is the present is gone. We're all living in the future constantly . . . Back in the day Leo Tolstoy -- what a sweetheart of a count and of a writer -- in the 1860's he wanted to write about the Napoleonic Campaign, about 1812. If you write about 1812 in 1860, a horse is still a horse. A carriage is still a carriage. Obviously, there are been some technological advancements, et cetera, but you don't have to worry about explaining the next killer [iPhone] app or the next Facebook because right now things are happening so quickly. ("Gary Shteyngart: Finding 'Love' In A Dismal Future", NPR interview, August 2, 2010)"
Author: Gary Shteyngart
11. "As a working definition of art, I lean toward Tolstoy's: "Art is a human activity having for it's purpose the transmission to other of the highest and best feelings to which mankind has risen." It seems to me that, regarding agrarian art, the farther it moves away from the natural world, especially when the main goal is money profits, the more difficult it becomes for it to reflect "the highest and best feelings" of humanity. The same is true of, of course, of agriculture itself. The farther it tries to remove itself from nature in search of money, the more it moves away from the highest and healthiest kinds of food."
Author: Gene Logsdon
12. "Nothing,' wrote Tolstoy, 'can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness."
Author: Gretchen Rubin
13. "...my longing was for Russia...Not Soviet Russia. But nineteenth-century Russia, the Russia of Dostoevsky's saintly prostitutes and Alyosha; of Tolstoy's Pierre; and Aksionov, the sufferer in "God Sees the Truth But Waits." A country where the characters in books were allowed to ask one another the questions: How must I live to be happy? What is goodness? Why does man suffer? What is to be done?"
Author: Guy Vanderhaeghe
14. "Reading the very best writers—let us say Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Tolstoy—is not going to make us better citizens. Art is perfectly useless, according to the sublime Oscar Wilde, who was right about everything. He also told us that all bad poetry is sincere. Had I the power to do so, I would command that these words be engraved above every gate at every university, so that each student might ponder the splendor of the insight."
Author: Harold Bloom
15. "Tolstoy's famous line, all happiness is alike, but each pain is painful in its own way."
Author: Haruki Murakami
16. "Unless you think you can do better than Tolstoy, we don't need you."
Author: James A. Michener
17. "I am a master of fiction. I am also the greatest crime writer who ever lived. I am to the crime novel in specific what Tolstoy is to the Russian novel and what Beethoven is to music."
Author: James Ellroy
18. "Tolstoy meant that, in order to be happy, a marriage must succeed in many different respects: sexual attraction, agreement about money, child discipline, religion, in-laws, and other vital issues."
Author: Jared Diamond
19. "If laughter came in paste format you could squeeze out of a tube, I'll bet nine out of ten dentists would recommend comedy before bed. The tenth doctor, having just read Tolstoy as deliberately mistranslated by Dora J. Arod, would probably recommend reading Russian literature before bed."
Author: Jarod Kintz
20. "From across the bar, she winked at me, so I did what anybody else would do—I told the bartender to deliver her a copy of Tolstoy's War and Peace."
Author: Jarod Kintz
21. "This, Tolstoy says, is our human predicament: we're the man clutching the branch. Death awaits us. There is no escape. And so we distract ourselves by licking whatever drops of honey come within our reach."
Author: Jeffrey Eugenides
22. "Art is bad when ‘you see the intent and get put off.' (Goethe) In Tolstoy one is unaware of the intent, and sees only the thing itself. from the book, On Retranslating A Russian Classic Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy"
Author: Joel Carmichael
23. "There are many premium writers, yes? Tolstoy, yes? He wrote War, and also Peace, which are both premium books."
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
24. "Out of Dostoevsky: Kafka. Out of Tolstoy: Margaret Mitchell.(in conversation, explaining his dislike for Tolstoy)"
Author: Joseph Brodsky
25. "God help me, how Tolstoy sweats over drying up people's sources of life, of wild and joyful life, drying them up and making the world fat with the love of God and everyman. ... But the man is old, after all, his fountains of life run dry, without a trace remaining of human affections. ... Only someone who has become slow and watertight with old age, satiated and hardened with pleasure, will go to youth and say, Renounce! ... And yet the youth renounces nothing, but sins royally for forty years. Such is the course of nature!"
Author: Knut Hamsun
26. "The hero of my tale," Tolstoy wrote when he was just twenty-seven, "whom I love with all the power of my soul, whom I have tried to portray in all its beauty, who has been, is, and always will be beautiful— is Truth."
Author: Leo Tolstoy
27. "Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy"
Author: Leo Tolstoy
28. "They certified that I was sane; but I know that I am mad." This confession gives us the key to what is most important and significant in Tolstoy's hidden life."
Author: Lev Shestov
29. "There is history the way Tolstoy imagined it, as a great, slow-moving weather system in which even tsars and generals are just leaves before the storm. And there is history the way Hollywood imagines it, as a single story line in which the right move by the tsar or the wrong move by the general changes everything. Most of us, deep down, are probably Hollywood people. We like to invent "what if" scenarios--what if x had never happened, what if y had happened instead?--because we like to believe that individual decisions make a difference: that, if not for x, or if only there had been y, history might have plunged forever down a completely different path. Since we are agents, we have an interest in the efficacy of agency."
Author: Louis Menand
30. "All of them, you see, misfits, all good for nothing, cowards, baboons, meek wolves, parasites, every man jack of them, people afraid to face their own responsibilities, fight their own fight, ready to go anywhere, as Tolstoy well perceived—"
Author: Malcolm Lowry
31. "Tolstoy carelessly neglects to include a boat race."
Author: Mark Twain
32. "It's Tolstoy, by the way," I say as I open the door.He turns around. "What?"Shut up, I tell myself. Shut up."The writer of Anna Karenina. Not Trotsky. Trotsky was a revolutionary who was stabbed with apickax in Mexico in 1940. But I can understand how the T thing could confuse you."
Author: Melina Marchetta
33. "I don't hold with shamans, witch doctors, or psychiatrists. Shakespeare, Tolstoy, or even Dickens, understood more about the human condition than ever occurred to any of you. You overrated bunch of charlatans deal with the grammar of human problems, and the writers I've mentioned with the essence."
Author: Mordecai Richler
34. "Freddie experienced the sort of abysmal soul-sadness which afflicts one of Tolstoy's Russian peasants when, after putting in a heavy day's work strangling his father, beating his wife, and dropping the baby into the city's reservoir, he turns to the cupboards, only to find the vodka bottle empty."
Author: P.G. Wodehouse
35. "You're trying to help them… that's a good thing. But you can't always count on seeing their gratitude," he said wanting to comfort her before he added a grain of salt. "You know what Tolstoy said… if you are unhappy with your life, you can change it in two ways… either improve the conditions you live in or improve your inner spiritual state. The first isn't always possible but the second is… In the end, Alex, people need to go directly to the source of Grace for themselves."
Author: Paul Alkazraji
36. "My motto? Don't trust someone who is just as cagey as yourself." "What kind of detective are you?" "A lousy one and proud of it. I write, remember?" She looked down at her hand & laughed. "Berretta doesn't make lighters." "Why I was a writer! My life revolved around fiction. I could make something up""She looked down at her hand & laughed. "Berretta doesn't make lighters." "So they're not Tolstoy, they're a little shorter...Okay, okay a lot. Go ahead, read my mystery series anyway." "A detective has their boundaries especially me. So mine shifted occasionally...okay a lot" "Beat it, Buster. My temper and this mace have a hair trigger.""Interference could be lethal." I got right up in his face, hissing, "Don't push me, I'm hormonal."I'm not really a lousy detective, just rough around the edges."
Author: Peggy A. Edelheit
37. "But in Old Rimrock, NJ, in 1995, when the Ivan Ilyches come trooping back to lunch at the clubhouse after their morning round of golf and started to crow, "It doesn't get any better than this," they may be a lot closer to the truth than Leo Tolstoy ever was."
Author: Philip Roth
38. "People misunderstand happiness. They think it's the absence of trouble. That's not happiness, that's luck. Happiness is the ability to live well alongside trouble. No two people have the same trouble, or the same way of metabolizing it. Q.E.D.: No two happy people are happy in the same way. Even Tolstoy was afraid to admit this, and I don't blame him. Every day brilliant people, people smarter than I, wallow in safe tragedy and pessimism, shying from what really takes guts: recognizing how much courage and labor happiness demands."-Tracy Farber"
Author: Rachel Kadish
39. "Tolstoy said, 'The antagonism between life and conscience may be removed either by a change of life or by a change of conscience.' Many of us have elected to adjust our consciences rather than our lives. Our powers of rationalization are unlimited. They allow us to live in luxury and indifference while others, whom we could help if we chose to, starve and go to hell."
Author: Randy Alcorn
40. "Though not necessarily aware of when we feel purpose and meaning, we are nearly always aware of the sickening feeling when we don't possess them. This isn't an intellectual misapprehension; it is a gut sense of disorientation and a loss of personal direction. Rarely are brute mental effort and self-help pep talks able to rekindle the missing feeling. For most of us, we simply wait patiently, knowing from past experience that the feeling will return in its own sweet time . . . Of particular interest is [Tolstoy's] conclusion as to the inability of science and reason to provide a personal sense of meaning."
Author: Robert A. Burton
41. "Ivanov had been a party member since 1902. Back then he had tried to write stories in the manner of Tolstoy, Chekhov, Gorky, or rather he had tried to plagiarize them without much success, which led him, after long reflection (a whole summer night), to the astute decision that he should write in the manner of Odoevsky and Lazhechnikov. Fifty percent Odoevsky and fifty percent Lazhecknikov. This went over well, in part because readers, their memories mostly faulty, had forgotten poor Odoevsky (1803-1869) and poor Lazhechnikov (1792-1869), who died the same year, and in part because literary criticism, as keen as ever, neither extrapolated nor made the connection nor noticed a thing."
Author: Roberto Bolaño
42. "Human consciousness at present is a sort of battlefield. And you know what Tolstoy tells us about battles in War and Peace. Nobody really knows what is going on during a battle..."
Author: Saul Bellow
43. "I get the same buzz cleaning up the yard as Leo Tolstoy did from scything hay."
Author: Sergei Lukyanenko
44. "I read a lot. I always have, but in those two years I gorged myself on books with a voluptuous, almost erotic gluttony. I would go to the local library and take out as many as I could, and then lock myself in the bedsit and read solidly for a week. I went for old books, the older the better--Tolstoy, Poe, Jacobean tragedies, a dusty translation of Laclos--so that when I finally resurfaced, blinking and dazzled, it took me days to stop thinking in their cool, polished, crystalline rhythms."
Author: Tana French
45. "I want you to read ‘God Sees the Truth, but Waits,' " said Mother. "Tolstoy writes about a man, wrongly accused of a murder, who spends the rest of his life in a prison camp. Twenty-six years later, as a convict in Siberia, he meets the true murderer and has an opportunity to free himself, but chooses not to. His longing for home leaves him and he dies." I ask Mother why this story matters to her. "Each of us must face our own Siberia," she says. "We must come to peace within our own isolation. No one can rescue us. My cancer is my Siberia." Suddenly, two white birds about the size of finches, dart in front of us and land on the snow."
Author: Terry Tempest Williams
46. "I never asked Tolstoy to write for me, a little colored girl in Lorain, Ohio. I never asked [James] Joyce not to mention Catholicism or the world of Dublin. Never. And I don't know why I should be asked to explain your life to you. We have splendid writers to do that, but I am not one of them. It is that business of being universal, a word hopelessly stripped of meaning for me. Faulkner wrote what I suppose could be called regional literature and had it published all over the world. That's what I wish to do. If I tried to write a universal novel, it would be water. Behind this question is the suggestion that to write for black people is somehow to diminish the writing. From my perspective there are only black people. When I say 'people,' that's what I mean."
Author: Toni Morrison
47. "... All who have brought about a state of sex-consciousness are to blame, and it is they who drive me, when I want to stretch my faculties on a book, to seek it in that happy age ... when the writer used both sides of his mind [the male and female sides of his mind] equally. One must turn back to Shakespeare then, for Shakespeare was androgynous; and so were Keats and Sterne and Cowper and Lamb and Coleridge. Shelley perhaps was sexless. Milton and Ben Jonson had a dash too much of the male in them. So had Wordsworth and Tolstoy."
Author: Virginia Woolf
48. "The slight, the facile and the merely self-glorifying tend to drop away over the centuries, and what we are left with is the bedrock: Homer and Milton, the Greek tragedian and Shakespeare, Chaucer and Cervantes and Swift, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy and James and Conrad. Time does not make their voices fainter, on the contrary, it reinforces our sense of their truth-telling capacity."
Author: Wendy Lesser
49. "There are two men in Tolstoy. He is a mystic and he is also a realist. He is addicted to the practice of a pietism that for all its sincerity is nothing if not vague and sentimental; and he is the most acute and dispassionate of observers, the most profound and earnest student of character and emotion."
Author: William Ernest Henley
50. "The world is kept alive only by heretics: the heretic Christ, the heretic Copernicus, the heretic Tolstoy. Our symbol of faith is heresy. ("Tomorrow")"
Author: Yevgeny Zamyatin

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