I had read War and Peace and Anna Karenina before I got to A Confession, Tolstoy’s autobiography about his crisis of faith. He eventually managed to cheer up a bit, but not by much.
Apparently he had participated in some very dark things by the time he hit the middle of his life. Murder, indulging in various lustful practices, cruelty, and many more activities which he names, and which “horrify” him as he looks back on them.
He was rich. He had a great family that loved him. And he was miserable. Money didn’t make him happy, and neither did family. He refers to the time he spent writing War and Peace as a time when he was dabbling in the most wretched, nonsensical, unimportant writing.
At the core of it all was an inability to have Faith in God. Once he discarded the “teachings of boyhood days” he was unable to see anything good in what now amounted to a series of useless rituals and vain beliefs.
In fact, he saw the act of living itself as a vain one, and much of the book is spent with him wondering why he can’t just get the nerve to kill himself. How do you know you’re wrong? What is he didn’t know as much as he thought? Big questions for a tormented man.
A Confession is about 100 pages long, and most of them are pretty dreary. Fascinating stuff, though. Tolstoy’s fans and fortune would have made him the equivalent of today’s globe-hopping jet-set, but without Faith to back it up, the Tolstoy of Confession still would have been miserable.
Have your read it? What else do you know about this cheery fellow?