Donald Rayfield

More Peter than Judas

Tolstoy’s False Disciple: The Untold Story of Leo Tolstoy and Vladimir Chertkov

By

Pegasus Books 309pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

To misquote Wordsworth: ‘He dwelt among Tolstoyan ways,/Vladimir G Chertkov,/A man whom there were none to praise,/And very few to love.’ Among those very few were Chertkov’s mother, wife and children, at various times two of Tolstoy’s daughters and, above all, Leo Tolstoy himself. Alexandra Popoff, however, is not among them: the very words of the title, ‘false disciple’, and the repeated mentions of Tartufe, Uriah Heep and Judas Iscariot in her text and epigraphs make that only too clear. This is not her first attack on Chertkov, though it is her most comprehensive: in Sophia Tolstoy (2010) Chertkov plays a demonic role; he also makes a brief appearance in The Wives (2012), a fine study of six Russian women who endured the tribulations of being great writers’ wives and widows.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,
    • 'We read from left to right and from start to finish. Or do we?' Stuart Hannabus considers the merits of reading i… ,