The Cossacks

The Cossacks

Book - 1994
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A brilliant short novel inspired by Leo Tolstoy's experience as a soldier in the Caucasus, The Cossacks has all the energy and poetry of youth while also foreshadowing the great themes of Tolstoy's later years. His na#65533;ve hero, Olenin, is a young nobleman who is disenchanted with his privileged and superficial existence in Moscow and hopes to find a simpler life in a Cossack village. As Olenin foolishly involves himself in their violent clashes with neighboring Chechen tribesmen and falls in love with a local girl, Tolstoy gives us a wider view than Olenin himself ever possesses of the brutal realities of the Cossack way of life and the wild, untamed beauty of the rugged landscape.

This novel of love, adventure, and male rivalry on the Russian frontier--completed in 1862, when the author was in his early thirties--has always surprised readers who know Tolstoy best through the vast, panoramic fictions of his middle years. Unlike those works, The Cossacks is lean and supple, economical in design and execution. But Tolstoy could never touch a subject without imbuing it with his magnificent many-sidedness, and so this book bears witness to his brilliant historical imagination, his passionately alive spiritual awareness, and his instinctive feeling for every level of human and natural life.
 
Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude

(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)

Publisher: New York : Knopf, c1994.
ISBN: 9780679431312
0679431314
Characteristics: xxxvii, 178 p. ;,21 cm.

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Nov 11, 2015

A wonderful little book full of insight. Masterfully written so that you get a full feeling of things in a minimum number of words. Olenin, the protagonist of this short novel, is the only character to whom we readers get a deep insight into his inner thoughts, but this is fitting as we, like him, should see the Cossacks as separate from ourselves. His longing to erase that gap and "go native" is born out of unrealistically romantic notions. I enjoy books that explore themes of cultural difference, and imperialism fascinates me, so it is little wonder I find this to be a near perfect read.

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