Tolstoy was not always an old man-not always a bearded patriarch fixing the world with the eye of an angry ancient mariner. He started War and Peace when he was thirty five, and Anna Karenina was finished before he was fifty. By then he had fulfilled his genius and deployed all those elements of his titanic temperament which made him world famous. In a richly detailed and sympathetic book on the most creative years of Russia's greatest writer, Edward Crankshaw explores the world of Count Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy, the elements in it that contributed to his great art, and the nature of the creative processes involved. Accompanied by evocative illustrations of Tolstoy's life, Mr. Crankshaw's text presents a development of this extraordinary man-his idyllic country childhood and his painful schooling, the wild years of conscience-stricken dissipation, the sojourn among the Cossacks in the Caucasus, the army service in the Crimean War, his entry into Moscow and St. Petersburg literary circles, his fateful marriage. It is an absorbing account which helps us to a fuller understanding of Tolstoy's towering genius-and the limitations that went with it.
Edward Crankshaw (1909 - 1984) was a British writer, translator and commentator on Soviet affairs.
Born in London, Crankshaw was educated in the Nonconformist public school, Bishop's Stortford College in Hertfordshire. He started working as a journalist for a few months at The Times. In the 1930s he lived in Vienna, Austria, teaching English and learning German (his competent grasp of German caused him to become part of the British Intelligence service during World War II). On his return he went back to write for The Times and began to write reviews-mostly musical-for The Spectator, The Bookman, and other periodicals. Crankshaw wrote around 40 books on Austrian and Russian subjects and after the war began his research in much more depth.
Crankshaw's book on Nazi terror, Gestapo (1956), was widely read and in 1963 he began to produce the ambitious literary works, often on historical or monumental moments in Russian Political history.