Bryony Edmunds

Tales for Young Peasants

Stories For My Children

By

Canongate 60pp £8.95 order from our bookshop

Stories for my Children is a selection from Tolstoy’s Primer, published in 1872. This, in turn, was based on the notebooks he had kept since the founding of his first school for peasant children in 1849.

Tolstoy inherited the family country estate of Yasnaya Polyana when he was nineteen. For the previous ten years, after the successive deaths of most of his close adult relatives, he had been living an upper-middle class, provincial town life in the care of a distant aunt. At his particularly idealistic age, the realities of the Russian rural life of the period, which he had remembered as a childish idyll, came as a traumatic shock. Although a trickle of reform had begun, the emancipation of serfs was still some ten years in the future and Tolstoy felt deeply responsible for the plight of ‘his’ people.

At that time illiteracy was the norm. Children were expected to work a twelve hour day and unpaid schooling seemed to offer few advantages. Simultaneously, however, the many rival factions in Russia were coming to recognise the enormous potential power that might come from filling millions of untutored minds with their own particular creed, Tolstoy was almost unique in his desire to educate solely for the sake of the individual’s own development.

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

    • 'The erecting and immediate destruction of a series of straw men rather detracts from what is for the most part an… ,
    • RT : A magnificent demolition job on this "acid laced tirade...unpleasantly self-obsessed...self pitying polemic...book… ,
    • 'Seventy years on, the time we have left to gather such first-hand testimony is running out.' John Keay on the sig… ,
    • The author 'seethes with contemptuous indignation at the shiny junk that an unregulated construction industry dumps… ,
    • 'The physical courage he demonstrated as a young man [...] gave way to intellectual power; radical thought, gifted… ,
    • 'While Jane Austen didn’t perhaps achieve the full recognition that she deserved in her lifetime, even then she out… ,
    • 'All I have is a voice To undo the folded lie, The romantic lie in the brain Of the sensual man-in-the-street And t… ,