Since I expect that I shall be moving away from Vancouver some time in August, I will take the liberty of scheduling my last personal selection for our group (hopefully James and everyone else won't mind).
After tackling Dostoevsky's Demons, I thought it would be a good idea to continue with another great work of Russian literature that not enough people have read.
This short novel (under 200 pages) was Tolstoy's swan song, obsessively written and rewritten between 1896 and 1904. The original rendering of the title in Russian is Хаджи-Мурат (Khadzhi-Murat).
Like two of our past selections, Melville's Billy Budd, Sailor and Gaddis' Agapē Agape, Hadji Murád was not published during the author's lifetime. And like Flaubert's Salammbô, it is a historical novel about a real war -- in this case, the[masked] imperial Russian war to conquer the Caucasus -- with an actual historical person as its main character.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Isaak Babel, and Ernest Hemingway were all big fans of this particular book. Hemingway's account of El Sordo's doomed last stand against the Falangists in For Whom the Bell Tolls was directly inspired by the last chapters of Hadji Murád.
According to a certain major literary critic of our time, Hadji Murád is Tolstoy's masterpiece (yes, perhaps even greater than War and Peace and Anna Karenina!). Well, now is our chance to find out and decide for ourselves just how great it really is.
If you can, please get the Modern Library edition with the Aylmer Maude translation; it is 192 pages long and is available for purchase at Chapters and Amazon.ca. The Dover edition also features the same 1912 English translation by Maude.