A book that changed my life

Reading Tolstoy

I have written out a short account of a vivid religious reaction to a book of Tolstoy’s, What to Do Then, which appeared 40 years ago in the late ‘80s. It fell into the hands of one and another of us during the following decade and profoundly modified our religious convictions. Many young people were deeply moved not only to a conviction of sin but to “deeds meet for repentance.” A similar account could be written of Tolstoy’s My Religion, founded on the very words of Jesus, “Resist not evil,” which denounced all use of coercive force, as this book challenged our unworthy acceptance of the labor of others. I have just reread the book, in order to write a preface for it, when it shall appear in a complete edition of Tolstoy’s works scheduled to be published next year in commemoration of the centenary of his birth, and I am submitting this account for whatever value it may have.


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