10 MAY 1935, Page 46


By Gerald Abraham

To succeed in condensing the enormous domestic mass of Tolstoy's life down to one of these neat and brief little books (Duckworth; Great Lives : 20. repiesents a feat of biography which in itself and regardless of its quality earns some admira- tion. In fact, Mr. Abraham has shown that it is 'possible to write a shorthand of action as well as of diction : his con- tractions of time and process never really foreshortening the issue, nor producing, as one Would presume to be unavoidable, an iniage of the subject as though seen in a distorting mirror. The general run of Tolstoy's active life is permitted to throw what light it can on the series of spiritual convulsions which drove forward his internal life--the .dyssynchronies noted as phenomena if not analysed as such. The time from the birth of Tolstoy at Yasnaya Polyina in 1828 until his enlistment in the Caucasian Army in 1851-that is, the period of his more or less hectic youth—is dealt with pretty circumspectly in fourteen pages—and dealt with So competently that it manages to proihice all the verisimilitude of a simpalait. The later periods are all treated with slightly more breadth than this, and the effect is satisfactory and- salutary. One notes that a list of chronological events in the front of the book covers one and a half pages. Mr. Abraham has not quite managed to equal this, but his effort is nevertheless remarkable.