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How Much Land Does a Man Need? and Other Stories (Paperback)

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In this collection, "How Much Land Does a Man Need? And Other Stories," Russian born Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) demonstrates his varied subject matter and style in his shorter fiction. In the title piece, "How Much Land Does a Man Need?," Tolstoy explores this very question through the story of a peasant with an increasing appetite for land. In "What Men Live By," the humble shoemaker Simon sets out to collect money to pay for new coats for the family. "A Spark Neglected Burns the House" is a parable examining the process of reconciliation. Also included are "Two Hussars," "Where Love is," "God Is," "Two Old Men," and "A Prisoner in the Caucasus," some of Tolstoy's finest early work. Though Tolstoy is widely known for "War and Peace" and "Anna Karenina," considered two of the greatest novels in world literature, his short stories remain valuable classics in their own regards.


Neeland Media
Book Format
Original Languages
Number of Pages
Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy; Nathan Haskell Dole; Louise Maude
Publication Date
January, 2012
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
9.00 x 6.00 x 1.50 Inches

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In these two stories, ...

In these two stories, translated by Ronald Wilks, Russian peasants find themselves caught up in unwitting encounters with the supernatural. In the first, the titular How Much Land Does a Man Need?, the humble peasant Pakhom and his wife live a modest but contented existence in the country. Yet Pakhom has one desire: 'I don't have enough land. Give me enough of that and I'd fear no one - not even the Devil himself!' But, unluckily for Pakhom, the Devil is lurking in his cottage than night and sees an excellent opportunity to put this ambitious peasant to the test. And so Pakhom finds himself in a position where he starts being able to acquire more land; but, with each gain, he becomes hungry for more. The more he acquires, the more he wants, while the Devil watches with glee from the sidelines. It makes for a pointed fable about the damaging effects of avarice and the importance of being content with your god-given lot in life. The religious theme continues in the second story, What Men Live By, which in one sense is a retelling of the Good Samaritan. The impoverished shoemaker Semyon is returning from town one day, in low spirits, when he finds a naked man sitting in the cold outside a chapel. Semyon's instinct is to walk on and mind his own business, but compassion leads him to return to the man, give him his own worn coat, and take him home to share a dinner they can ill afford. Semyon's goodness is repaid by loyalty: the foundling, Mikhail, turns out to have a gift for shoemaking and the business prospers. But Semyon and his wife know so little about their new assistant, and the enigma deepens as the years pass, until Mikhail is finally ready to reveal the truth of his identity: one that emphasises the importance of sharing, looking out for one another and acting with kindness. Like the first story, this has the air of a fable or fairy story, charmingly devout. As such, neither tale has the impressive power of some of the stories covered here, but they were some of the most enjoyable to read (except, of course, for the gleefully nonsensical Nose). I won't be reading War and Peace again any time soon, but I should seek out some more of Tolstoy's short stories, as they confirm him as a gifted and graceful storyteller.

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