Great Short Works

ISBN: 0060586974
ISBN 13: 9780060586973
By: Leo Tolstoy Aylmer Maude Louise Maude John Bayley

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Classics Currently Reading Fiction Literature Russia Russian Russian Lit Russian Literature Short Stories To Read

About this book

Of all Russian writers Leo Tolstoy is probably the best known to the Western world, largely because of War and Peace, his epic in prose, and Anna Karenina, one of the most splendid novels in any language. But during his long lifetime Tolstoy also wrote enough shorter works to fill many volumes. Here reprinted in one volume are his eight finest short novels, together with "Alyosha the Pot", the little tale that Prince Mirsky described as "a masterpiece of rare perfection."The Death of Ivan IlychThe CossacksFamily HappinessThe DevilThe Kreutzer SonataMaster and ManFather SergiusHaji MuradAlyosha the Pot

Reader's Thoughts

James Violand

Great works containing The Cossacks, The Death of Ivan Ilych, and The Kreutzer Sonata.


I love short stories. These were good, but not as good as I was hoping for after reading War and Peace. Tolstoy is so good at dedicating stories towards something of moral consequence and these short stories are no different. I can, however, only handle so many consecutive treatises on humanity and human nature if they aren't carefully concealed in a gripping plot. These, sad to say, really were not.


This book is an excellent introduction to works of Tolstoy for anyone who is interested in the author but unsure if reading his lengthy novels is a worthwhile investment or to those who have read the novels and just want to see what else there is to Tolstoy. Having read the novels and religious/political works of Tolstoy first, this collection provided an enjoyable continuation of many of the same themes in a different format. The editor's choice of the selected stories and quality of translation are beyond criticism. The only thing it could benefit from is translation of foreign (mainly french) language used in the notes.


i was in the bookstore deciding between "War and Peace" and a collection of short stories. I wimped out on War and Peace in favor of what i thought would be more digestible short stories. While the stories themselves are interesting and typical Tolstoy themes, the translation is so poor i can only give this version three stars. I've had to put the book down, the language is very difficult to muddle through and unfortunately is distracting. I would very much like to revisit a better translation, hopefully the excellent translating team of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

Erin Hutson

I had this book for a class freshman year, and returned to it for a class this year. I was reaffirmed my love for Tolstoy. He's an absolute literary genius and a short story expert.


This collection of short stories are the best. Highly recommend this gem.


This edition is shit. The printing is terrible - I don't know how to describe bad printing but, like, the thing with the words didn't press down hard enough on the paper or whatever.


I really enjoy Tolstoy's short works. Some are okay, and some are quite brilliant with deep, inspiring messages.


Do not buy this book. The Maude translation of Tolstoy's works is exceptionally bad. My rating is for the translation, not the merit of Tolstoy's stories. As best I can, let me rate them separately below:Family Happiness -- (*) -- I didn't care for this story because Tolstoy writes it from a female perspective, and he doesn't quite carry it off. This is an early work of his, an idealized portrait of how love and marriage might proceed.The Cossacks -- (***) -- A short work of about 120 pages asking whether someone from one culture can ever really "go native" in another. A little comic and sad, but with good natural descriptions and a study of the Cossack culture.The Death of Ivan Ilych -- (****) -- Tolstoy's best short work with an existentialist ring.The Devil -- (**) -- A man's sexual past catches up with him with a vengeance. This story was a little too short and thin for me.The Kreutzer Sonata -- (***) -- A well structured, controversial story using a frame narrative to describe of the failure of marriage in the 19th century, stemming from the terribly misplaced sexual attitudes of the time. The story traces out the disastrous consequences in the relations between one couple and really pulls readers in. Master and Man -- (***) -- A look at the relations between servants and those they serve.Father Sergius -- (***) -- A story of a nobleman's quest for authentic service to his fellow man. This story was much better than I expected.Hadji Murad -- (***) -- Tolstoy's best, a look at the life of Chechen warlord trying to go over to the Russians in a quest for vengeance. The story is one that will appeal to American readers for its wildness and bravado.Alyosha the Pot -- (**) -- Good story, but much too short.I bought this Perennial Classics collection because it had most of Tolstoy's best stories together between its covers. I advise others not to make the same mistake, and to read these stories in other books. Without belaboring the details, let me repeat that the translation is wretched. Again, do not buy this book.

Natalie Bird

This is a fantastic collection both if you've never read Tolstoy, or if you're a seasoned fan. The Kreutzer Sonata is by far my favorite, though the Death of Ivan Ilych and Family Happiness are not far behind. Tolstoy always manages to write in a manner that makes you surprised this was the 1800's and not yesterday. However, as others have mentioned, this is akin to a "Greatest Hits" album, more than a cohesive collection of similar stories.


Many of these short stories are worthy of any and all accolades one could bestow. Superb, excellent writing all around.


I'm not sure how to review a collection of stories. Am I commenting on the stories themselves, or on the editors' choices -- which stories they included, the value of the Introduction, and other such choices? So I've mixed all such considerations together and pulled four stars out of my furry ushanka hat. One factor that diminished my rating is simply the poor quality of the print in this particular book. The ink is thick and blobby on many of the rather flimsy pages. I shouldn't have been so cheap in purchasing Tolstoy's great short works -- I will want to own these works for my lifetime, and I'm sure you will too, so don't skimp like I did. On the other hand, perhaps it is more fitting to not get the deluxe edition of Tolstoy's great short works. Surely Hadji Murad did not spend his rubles on fancily bound books. It was nothing in Ivan Illyich's library that redeemed him in his last minutes. And likewise, both "Master" and "Man" were able to act out of truth not because of a treasured book they'd owned but because of...divine inspiration? Sudden insight into their own and others' true nature? An abrupt shifting of perspective away from small self to vastness? However one wishes to phrase it, these heroes of Tolstoy's great short works didn't do their pivotal acts out of intellectual understanding; more importantly, they didn't do them out of habit; and most importantly, Tolstoy somehow actually isn't moralizing about all this, at all. -- Or, if he is, he somehow gets away with it, without alienating moralizing-phobic readers like myself. Perhaps its a sign of our degenerate times that we would even need such stories as these to contemplate, in order to be closer to truth. But we do -- there is so much nontruth pulling at us, screaming for our attention, pleading with us to accept and repeat its litanies. We certainly don't need to develop peasant-envy, but we do need to let ourselves get as close as we can stand to be to what is certain and what is fresh about being alive. It's evident that Tolstoy longed to be as close as he could be to life, and that he must have contemplated the essential truths of life (that we keep going for pleasure and trying to avoid pain, that we get sick, that we die) consistently for many years, all the while not missing out on any of the details that make those truths flesh and blood. So to read his stories (especially the three I referenced above -- there are a couple stories in this collection that I can't rave about) is to sort of have someone do the work for you -- he lays bare the condensed fruit of his contemplations (now that's a weird mixed metaphor, but I can't think of how other to say it). We just sit in bed or wherever and read his work, which seems very second-hand -- but actually, reading these stories isn't painless. Ivan Illyich is not for hypochondriacs! Master and Man is not for the judgmental, and Hadji Murad is not for sissies. So gather your courage, open your mind, do spend money on a nice copy, and read your Tolstoy!


I was afraid of this thick book and it sat on my shelf for a while. So engaging! I love glimpsing the crazy guy in The Kruetzer Sonata and watching characters emerge in many of his tales. The Cossacks...Family Happiness. Look, I can't do Leo Tolstoy any kind of justice. It is Leo Tolstoy. I will say that after reading this, I know that I will read War and Peace in my lifetime.


He is an amazing writer. His short works are perfect introduction to his minds and to beginners alike. I definitely recommends Leo Tolstoy beginners to read his short works first before moving on to his major novels like Anna Karenina or War And Peace in order to get used to his style of writing.I enjoyed this purchase very much.

Loreen Niewenhuis

Gotta read the masters, man...Tolstoy does it all: life & death, love & lust, faith & hopelessness.

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