Leo Tolstoy quotes

Leo Tolstoy photo
442   7

Leo Tolstoy

Birthdate: 28. August 1828
Date of death: 7. November 1910
Other names: Лев Толстой, Lev Tolstoj, Lev N. Tolstoj

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy , usually referred to in English as Leo Tolstoy, was a Russian writer who is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time. He received multiple nominations for Nobel Prize in Literature every year from 1902 to 1906, and nominations for Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, 1902 and 1910, and the fact that he never won is a major Nobel prize controversy.Born to an aristocratic Russian family in 1828, he is best known for the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina , often cited as pinnacles of realist fiction. He first achieved literary acclaim in his twenties with his semi-autobiographical trilogy, Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth , and Sevastopol Sketches , based upon his experiences in the Crimean War. Tolstoy's fiction includes dozens of short stories and several novellas such as The Death of Ivan Ilyich , Family Happiness , and Hadji Murad . He also wrote plays and numerous philosophical essays.

In the 1870s Tolstoy experienced a profound moral crisis, followed by what he regarded as an equally profound spiritual awakening, as outlined in his non-fiction work A Confession . His literal interpretation of the ethical teachings of Jesus, centering on the Sermon on the Mount, caused him to become a fervent Christian anarchist and pacifist. Tolstoy's ideas on nonviolent resistance, expressed in such works as The Kingdom of God Is Within You , were to have a profound impact on such pivotal 20th-century figures as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Tolstoy also became a dedicated advocate of Georgism, the economic philosophy of Henry George, which he incorporated into his writing, particularly Resurrection .

Works

Anna Karenina
Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace
War and Peace
Leo Tolstoy

„I longed for activity, instead of an even flow of existence. I wanted excitement and danger and the chance to renounce self for the sake of my love. I was conscious of a superabundance of energy which found no outlet in our quiet life. I had bouts of depression, which I tried to hide, as something to be ashamed of…My mind, even my senses were occupied, but there was another feeling – the feeling of youth and a craving for activity – which found no scope in our quiet life…So time went by, the snow piled higher and higher round the house, and there we remained together, always and for ever alone and just the same in each other’s eyes; while somewhere far away amidst glitter and noise multitudes of people thrilled, suffered and rejoiced, without one thought of us and our existence which was ebbing away.“

—  Leo Tolstoy, book Family Happiness

Worst of all, I felt that every day that passed riveted another link to the chain of habit which was binding our life into a fixed shape, that our emotions, ceasing to be spontaneous, were being subordinated to the even, passionless flow of time… ‘It’s all very well … ‘ I thought, ‘it’s all very well to do good and lead upright lives, as he says, but we’ll have plenty of time for that later, and there are other things for which the time is now or never.’ I wanted, not what I had got, but a life of challenge; I wanted feeling to guide us in life, and not life to guide us in feeling.
Family Happiness (1859)

„He who exalts himself shall be humbled; and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.“

—  Leo Tolstoy

(Matthew 23:12) The person who exalts himself … will be humbled, because a person who considers himself to be good, intelligent, and kind will not even try to become better, smarter, kinder. The humble person will be exalted, because he considers himself bad and will try to become better, kinder, and more reasonable.
Source: Path of Life (1909), p. 110

„How good is it to remember one's insignificance: that of a man among billions of men, of an animal amid billions of animals“

—  Leo Tolstoy

Last Diaries (1979) edited by Leon Stilman, p. 77
Context: How good is it to remember one's insignificance: that of a man among billions of men, of an animal amid billions of animals; and one's abode, the earth, a little grain of sand in comparison with Sirius and others, and one's life span in comparison with billions on billions of ages. There is only one significance, you are a worker. The assignment is inscribed in your reason and heart and expressed clearly and comprehensibly by the best among the beings similar to you. The reward for doing the assignment is immediately within you. But what the significance of the assignment is or of its completion, that you are not given to know, nor do you need to know it. It is good enough as it is. What else could you desire?

Help us translate English quotes

Discover interesting quotes and translate them.

Start translating

„Ivan Ilych saw that he was dying, and he was in continual despair.“

—  Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilyich

Source: The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886), Ch. VI
Context: Ivan Ilych saw that he was dying, and he was in continual despair. In the depth of his heart he knew he was dying, but not only was he not accustomed to the thought, he simply did not and could not grasp it. The syllogism he had learnt from Kiesewetter's Logic: "Caius is a man, men are mortal, therefore Caius is mortal," had always seemed to him correct as applied to Caius, but certainly not as applied to himself. That Caius — man in the abstract — was mortal, was perfectly correct, but he was not Caius, not an abstract man, but a creature quite, quite separate from all others.

„Whereas at present, every man, even, if free, asks himself, "What can I do alone against all this ocean of evil and deceit which overwhelms us? Why should I express my opinion? Why indeed possess one?“

—  Leo Tolstoy

Source: Patriotism and Christianity http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Patriotism_and_Christianity (1896), Ch. 17
Context: One free man will say with truth what he thinks and feels amongst thousands of men who by their acts and words attest exactly the opposite. It would seem that he who sincerely expressed his thought must remain alone, whereas it generally happens that every one else, or the majority at least, have been thinking and feeling the same things but without expressing them.
And that which yesterday was the novel opinion of one man, to-day becomes the general opinion of the majority.
And as soon as this opinion is established, immediately by imperceptible degrees, but beyond power of frustration, the conduct of mankind begins to alter.
Whereas at present, every man, even, if free, asks himself, "What can I do alone against all this ocean of evil and deceit which overwhelms us? Why should I express my opinion? Why indeed possess one? It is better not to reflect on these misty and involved questions. Perhaps these contradictions are an inevitable condition of our existence. And why should I struggle alone with all the evil in the world? Is it not better to go with the stream which carries me along? If anything can be done, it must be done not alone but in company with others."
And leaving the most powerful of weapons — thought and its expression — which move the world, each man employs the weapon of social activity, not noticing that every social activity is based on the very foundations against which he is bound to fight, and that upon entering the social activity which exists in our world every man is obliged, if only in part, to deviate from the truth and to make concessions which destroy the force of the powerful weapon which should assist him in the struggle. It is as if a man, who was given a blade so marvelously keen that it would sever anything, should use its edge for driving in nails.
We all complain of the senseless order of life, which is at variance with our being, and yet we refuse to use the unique and powerful weapon within our hands — the consciousness of truth and its expression; but on the contrary, under the pretext of struggling with evil, we destroy the weapon, and sacrifice it to the exigencies of an imaginary conflict'.

„In the upper, rich, more educated classes of European society doubt arose as to the truth of that understanding of life which was expressed by Church Christianity.“

—  Leo Tolstoy

What is Art? (1897)
Context: In the upper, rich, more educated classes of European society doubt arose as to the truth of that understanding of life which was expressed by Church Christianity. When, after the Crusades and the maximum development of papal power and its abuses, people of the rich classes became acquainted with the wisdom of the classics and saw, on the one hand, the reasonable lucidity of the teachings of the ancient sages, and on the other hand, the incompatibility of the Church doctrine with the teaching of Christ, they found it impossible to continue to believe the Church teaching.

„God is the infinite ALL. Man is only a finite manifestation of Him.“

—  Leo Tolstoy

Entry in Tolstoy's Diary http://www.linguadex.com/tolstoy/chapter1.htm (1 November 1910)
Context: God is the infinite ALL. Man is only a finite manifestation of Him.
Or better yet:
God is that infinite All of which man knows himself to be a finite part.
God alone exists truly. Man manifests Him in time, space and matter. The more God's manifestation in man (life) unites with the manifestations (lives) of other beings, the more man exists. This union with the lives of other beings is accomplished through love.
God is not love, but the more there is of love, the more man manifests God, and the more he truly exists...
We acknowledge God only when we are conscious of His manifestation in us. All conclusions and guidelines based on this consciousness should fully satisfy both our desire to know God as such as well as our desire to live a life based on this recognition.

„One free man will say with truth what he thinks and feels amongst thousands of men who by their acts and words attest exactly the opposite. It would seem that he who sincerely expressed his thought must remain alone, whereas it generally happens that every one else, or the majority at least, have been thinking and feeling the same things but without expressing them.“

—  Leo Tolstoy

Source: Patriotism and Christianity http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Patriotism_and_Christianity (1896), Ch. 17
Context: One free man will say with truth what he thinks and feels amongst thousands of men who by their acts and words attest exactly the opposite. It would seem that he who sincerely expressed his thought must remain alone, whereas it generally happens that every one else, or the majority at least, have been thinking and feeling the same things but without expressing them.
And that which yesterday was the novel opinion of one man, to-day becomes the general opinion of the majority.
And as soon as this opinion is established, immediately by imperceptible degrees, but beyond power of frustration, the conduct of mankind begins to alter.
Whereas at present, every man, even, if free, asks himself, "What can I do alone against all this ocean of evil and deceit which overwhelms us? Why should I express my opinion? Why indeed possess one? It is better not to reflect on these misty and involved questions. Perhaps these contradictions are an inevitable condition of our existence. And why should I struggle alone with all the evil in the world? Is it not better to go with the stream which carries me along? If anything can be done, it must be done not alone but in company with others."
And leaving the most powerful of weapons — thought and its expression — which move the world, each man employs the weapon of social activity, not noticing that every social activity is based on the very foundations against which he is bound to fight, and that upon entering the social activity which exists in our world every man is obliged, if only in part, to deviate from the truth and to make concessions which destroy the force of the powerful weapon which should assist him in the struggle. It is as if a man, who was given a blade so marvelously keen that it would sever anything, should use its edge for driving in nails.
We all complain of the senseless order of life, which is at variance with our being, and yet we refuse to use the unique and powerful weapon within our hands — the consciousness of truth and its expression; but on the contrary, under the pretext of struggling with evil, we destroy the weapon, and sacrifice it to the exigencies of an imaginary conflict'.

„Martin understood that his dream had come true; and that the Saviour had really come to him that day, and he had welcomed him.“

—  Leo Tolstoy

"Where Love Is, God Is" (1885), also translated as "Where Love is, There God is Also" - (full text online)
Context: Martin's soul grew very very glad. He crossed himself put on his spectacles, and began reading the Gospel just where it had opened; and at the top of the page he read: I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in. And at the bottom of the page he read: Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren even these least, ye did it unto me (Matt. xxv). And Martin understood that his dream had come true; and that the Saviour had really come to him that day, and he had welcomed him.

„The conscience of a man of our circle, if he retains but a scrap of it, cannot rest, and poisons all the comforts and enjoyments of life supplied to us by the labour of our brothers, who suffer and perish“

—  Leo Tolstoy

What then must we do? (1886)
Context: The conscience of a man of our circle, if he retains but a scrap of it, cannot rest, and poisons all the comforts and enjoyments of life supplied to us by the labour of our brothers, who suffer and perish at that labour. And not only does every conscientious man feel this himself (he would be glad to forget it, but cannot do so in our age) but all the best part of science and art - that part which has not forgotten the purpose of its vocation - continually reminds us of our cruelty and of our unjustifiable position. The old firm justifications are all destroyed; the new ephemeral justifications of the progress of science for science's sake and art for art's sake do not stand the light of simple common sense. Men's consciences cannot be set at rest by new excuses, but only by a change of life which will make any justification of oneself unnecessary as there will be nothing needing justification.

„I cannot recall those years without horror, loathing, and heart-rending pain.“

—  Leo Tolstoy

Pt. I, ch. 2
Confession (1882)
Context: I cannot recall those years without horror, loathing, and heart-rending pain. I killed people in war, challenged men to duels with the purpose of killing them, and lost at cards; I squandered the fruits of the peasants' toil and then had them executed; I was a fornicator and a cheat. Lying, stealing, promiscuity of every kind, drunkenness, violence, murder — there was not a crime I did not commit... Thus I lived for ten years.

„To all these questions there were answers admirably stated, and answers admitting no shade of doubt, since they were not a product of human thought, always liable to error, but were all the product of official activity.“

—  Leo Tolstoy, book Anna Karenina

Part IV, Chapter 6
Anna Karenina (1875–1877; 1878)
Context: The new commission for the inquiry into the condition of the native tribes in all its branches had been formed and dispatched to its destination with an unusual speed and energy inspired by Alexey Alexandrovitch. Within three months a report was presented. The condition of the native tribes was investigated in its political, administrative, economic, ethnographic, material, and religious aspects. To all these questions there were answers admirably stated, and answers admitting no shade of doubt, since they were not a product of human thought, always liable to error, but were all the product of official activity. The answers were all based on official data furnished by governors and heads of churches, and founded on the reports of district magistrates and ecclesiastical superintendents, founded in their turn on the reports of parochial overseers and parish priests; and so all of these answers were unhesitating and certain. All such questions as, for instance, of the cause of failure of crops, of the adherence of certain tribes to their ancient beliefs, etc.—questions which, but for the convenient intervention of the official machine, are not, and cannot be solved for ages—received full, unhesitating solution.

„A commercial company enslaved a nation comprising two hundred millions. Tell this to a man free from superstition and he will fail to grasp what these words mean.“

—  Leo Tolstoy, A Letter to a Hindu

Source: A Letter to a Hindu (1908), V
Context: A commercial company enslaved a nation comprising two hundred millions. Tell this to a man free from superstition and he will fail to grasp what these words mean. What does it mean that thirty thousand men, not athletes but rather weak and ordinary people, have subdued two hundred million vigorous, clever, capable, and freedom-loving people? Do not the figures make it clear that it is not the English who have enslaved the Indians, but the Indians who have enslaved themselves?

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

Similar authors

Mikhail Lermontov photo
Mikhail Lermontov33
Russian writer, poet and painter
Fyodor Dostoyevsky photo
Fyodor Dostoyevsky140
Russian author
Aleksandr Pushkin photo
Aleksandr Pushkin33
Russian poet
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky photo
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky4
Russian composer
Mikhail Bakunin photo
Mikhail Bakunin54
Russian revolutionary, philosopher, and theorist of collect…
Bettina von Arnim photo
Bettina von Arnim1
German writer
Stendhal photo
Stendhal50
French writer
José Maria Eça de Queiroz photo
José Maria Eça de Queiroz14
Portuguese writer
Honoré de Balzac photo
Honoré de Balzac149
French writer
Today anniversaries
Suman Pokhrel photo
Suman Pokhrel41
Nepali poet, lyricist, playwright, translator and artist 1967
Stephen King photo
Stephen King727
American author 1947
Arthur Schopenhauer photo
Arthur Schopenhauer259
German philosopher 1788 - 1860
Chief Joseph photo
Chief Joseph16
Nez Percé Chieftain 1840 - 1904
Another 57 today anniversaries
Similar authors
Mikhail Lermontov photo
Mikhail Lermontov33
Russian writer, poet and painter
Fyodor Dostoyevsky photo
Fyodor Dostoyevsky140
Russian author
Aleksandr Pushkin photo
Aleksandr Pushkin33
Russian poet
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky photo
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky4
Russian composer