Alexei Tolstoy is a Soviet Russian novelist, storyteller and playwright related to the international writer Lev Tolstoy, the author of the best known and widely circulated works, including ‘War and Peace’ and ‘Anna Karenina’. However, this kinship was never one of the reasons why he gained fame and prestige among his peers of the generation of writers of that time, as much as it was due to his controversial biography and career.
Our writer Alexei Tolstoy was born to a father who belonged to the nobility of that generation and a mother known for her penchant for the arts and literature. Tolstoy combined science fiction hobby and story inspiration as the subject of a number of his literary works, as well as what marred his career in the later stages of his orientation towards social and political activity after he went from excessive hostility to the October Socialist Revolution of 1917, to absolute support for the policies and practices of Soviet leader Stalin.
In this regard, his critics and contemporaries cite his creations of science fiction subjects, including the novel “Aelita”, which deals with the details of a trip to Mars, and later developed as the basis for one of the most famous science fiction films in the 1924.
Of the historical topics, we stop at the “Peter I” trilogy, which some describe as the pinnacle of his creativity, with its rich artistic details uniting the historical narrative of the events of that time, and the biography of Peter I from on the one hand, and on the other, his reform activity and his struggle with his opponents at home and abroad, another, with a revision of his beliefs and views towards the reality and events of the time, and this put him in the circle of accusing him of adopting the “period projections” approach to the past, which he rejected as a “false historical and artistic approach”.
Tolstoy had begun writing the first part of this novel in 1929, and died before finishing the third part in 1945.
This novel came after the “Path of Pain” trilogy, through which he traced the minutes of life of Russian society and the events and developments that citizens of that historical era experienced during the years of the First World War, passing for the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, and the subsequent “civil war” and military confrontations between the Red and White Armies, and this trilogy was published under the titles “The Two Sisters”, “1918” and “A Cloudy Morning”.
Writing for children
The Soviet Russian novelist and storyteller did not neglect writing for children, the creative peak of which was in his story “Nikita’s Childhood”, which he published in 1922, considered by many to be an “autobiography” in which Tolstoy told his life in the stepfather’s house , and the writer’s mother herself became a literary model for the hero’s mother, the original names of the teacher Arkady Ivanovich and the author’s childhood friend Mishka Koryachonok have also been preserved.
Among the masterpieces of Tolstoy’s writings in this field there is also the story “The Adventures of Buratino” or “The Golden Key”, written by him in 1936, which became famous and widespread, with which the character of the hero Buratino became one of the most famous figures in Soviet society.
Needless to say what was reported at the time about Tolstoy that borrowed the idea of this story from an Italian story called “Pino Q. Perhaps it is interesting in this regard to point out that the contemporary Russian writer Tatiana Tolstoy (female surname Tolstaya) is the daughter of Nikita Tolstoy, the eldest son of Alexei Tolstoy, named after the hero of his story “Nikita’s Childhood”.
History also records the novelist and storyteller Tolstoy’s experiences in composing poetry which he began when he was only 16, and critics say he was influenced in his early creative experiences by the writings of symbolic poets, and this was evident in his first work which he published in 1907, a collection of “texts” which he published at his own expense. In 1907, his second and last collection, Beyond the Blue Rivers, which he published in 1911, borrowed much of his ideas from Russian folklore and was characterized by a mixture of symbolism and realism.
Tolstoy says he was influenced by Nikolai Nekrasov’s poetry, but was later ashamed of these early experiences, which he said “were an indecent imitation, and he would rather not remember them at all.”
It is remarkable in the biography of this controversial writer that many scenes from his youth and childhood determined the characteristics of his next steps, the anecdotes and paradoxes of his life. Alexey Tolstoy was born in the city of Nikolaevsk, in the Saratov province, in southern Russia, to a father of large landowners, Nikolai Tolstoy, a nobleman of the time, and to a mother related to the well-known writer Ivan Turgenev, and was a talented writer who wrote stories for children, which contributed to the development of his son’s talents and his love for literary creativity from an early age.
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Sources say her mother separated from her father and he was not yet born, so her appearance was the subject of controversy over the truth of origin and lineage, “for living her early childhood on an estate owned by her noble stepfather Alexei Bostrom, and to receive his primary education at home under the guidance of a visiting teacher, and that was the period Alexei became concerned for Tolstoy to record some of his impressions and scenes.
Looking back, I think the need for creativity was driven by the loneliness of my childhood, I grew up alone in contemplation and dissolution among the great phenomena of earth and sky, July lightning over the dark garden, autumn fog like milk , a dry twig slipping in the wind on the first snow from the blessing.
Let us return to his biography to underline that the family moved in 1897 to the city of Samara, where Tolstoy completed his high school studies in 1901, and enrolled in the Petersburg Institute of Technical Sciences, from which he graduated as an engineer in 1907.
Tolstoy tells that with the onset of the First World War he was exempted from military service for health reasons, but was sent to the front as a war correspondent for the newspaper “Ruske Vedomosti”, and in this capacity visited England and France in 1916, and found time to write a series of military stories, plays, and articles. .
Russian literature says that Alexei Tolstoy sided with the ranks of his opponents at the outbreak of the October Revolution in 1917, and in July 1918 he moved to Odessa, from there to Constantinople, then to Paris, finally settling in Berlin.
In a letter to Ivan Bunin, the well-known Russian writer, he writes about his departure from Odessa: “The hour was difficult, but afterwards it was as if the wind carried us and soon we returned to our normal state, on the ship we slept with the children in a dank hiding place stricken by sick neighbors.” Typhoid, lice were crawling all over us and we stayed for two months on Kilab Island in the Sea of Marmara. It was a beautiful place, but we had no money.’
Tolstoy did not like either Paris or Berlin, and in 1919 he emigrated to Paris and from there he moved in the autumn of 1921 to Berlin, where he met Maxim Gorky in the spring of 1922 and had a friendship with him that did not last long, and he communicated with Ivan Bunin, the well-known Russian writer, and the first Russian writers to win at the time. He was subsequently awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, indicated by “Independent Arabia” in an earlier report from Moscow.
Tolstoy had always written about his travels to his homeland and the feelings of suffering associated with remembering and denouncing the hardship and difficulty of life in Kharkov, however, he later decided to abandon diaspora life and divorce with the past after a rift erupted between himself and many Russian immigrants in Western Europe, and changed his vision of the Bolshevik revolution, to return with his family to his homeland in 1923, and become one of the extremist supporters of the new Soviet Union, in which he established illustrious relations with the authorities and became a deputy in the Supreme Soviet and a member of the Academy of Sciences, who called him the “Red Count” because he was noble by birth while not adopting any revolutionary ideology.
Perhaps this was an explanation not only for his escape from all forms of oppression and persecution, but also for the positions he enjoyed in that society, and he became one of Soviet leader Stalin’s favorite writers.
However, this did not last long, and here was Alexander Fadeev, who was secretary of the Union of Soviet Writers, mentioning that in the winter of 1945 Stalin called him and said: “You are Comrade Fadeev, the head of the Union of writers, yet you don’t notice high-level international spies sitting next to you”, and pointed to a number of writers’ names, including Pyotr Pavlenko and Ilya Ehrenburg, then added: “Don’t you know that Alexei Tolstoy is an Englishman to spy?”
However, there are also those who argue that Stalin’s opinion of Tolstoy was not as harsh as his speech about him, since he was awarded the “Stalin Prize” after his death, and his name received much appreciation and reverence in Russian literary circles. who celebrated the 140th anniversary of his birth on 10 January.