The self-portrait with which Leah Bendavid-Val opens her introduction to Song Without Words: The Photographs and Diaries of Countess Sophia Tolstoy presents the photographer as two women. On one hand, she is mistress of her domain, a commanding and elegant matron; yet she stands at a distance, beneath a towering canopy of trees, which makes her appear diminutive and slightly indistinct, a subject secondary to her surroundings. Much of Bendavid-Val’s book, in fact, reads like a primer on Lev Tolstoy’s activities, his moods, and ambitions. One wonders, then, to what degree Sophia’s life can be separated from her husband’s. In a sense, it cannot. Such is the undercurrent that runs throughout this examination of Sophia’s words and images: though she proved herself an able manager of estate and family matters and an industrious assistant in Tolstoy’s literary endeavours, her life was, at almost every turn, subject to his. Photography, however, offered Sophia the chance to pursue an interest that was solely hers.
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Only the Summer double issue (July/August) of @Lit_Review Lots of great summer reading.
'Like many a subsequent empire, Rome had a highly ambivalent relationship with the outsiders it needed to fuel its commerce, stock its slave markets and man its armies.'
@PParkerAuthor on the rise and fall of Alaric the Goth.
'Of all modern English poets, Larkin is perhaps the one with whom most readers feel some imaginative affinity, a sense of having lived in the same world, with the same streets, the same unvoiced longings and anxieties.'