La Guerre et la Paix: Writers and Paywalls

I have created a Substack. It is a Newsletter, emailed directly to your inbox. I hope you will subscribe. I write under my pen name, Samantha Mozart, the name under which I publish my books. This is my introductory Substack post.

I thought I’d start with Tolstoy.  Leo Tolstoy, in his later life, came to believe that all children should be educated and that at least his literature should be made free to the reader.  He was negotiating to release his books without copyrights (and sought to renounce his inherited wealth).  Sofia, his wife and bearer of their 13 children, was, shall we say, miffed.  And, so, some believe that she sent henbane tea with him on his winter train trip causing him to die at a remote railway station, Astapovo, after having drunk the tea. In actuality, he left alone in the middle of the night in late October/early November 1910, wrote Sofia a note not to follow him, took his physician with him and died at Astapovo on November 20 of pneumonia. You can read accounts of Tolstoy’s last moments in a series of 1910 New York Times articles — if you are a paid subscriber.

I agree with Tolstoy that all writing should be available free to everyone, hence I am a supporter of our free library system.  So, when you ban books like Huckleberry Finn, is that not like serving up a fatal cup of henbane tea to Mark Twain, or any author whose works are banned?  I think individuals should be free to choose whatever they want to read.  We must be allowed and informed of different perspectives.  You don’t have to want to read what the other person is reading or writing or believe in his or her philosophy or polemics, but you might want to listen.  You might find a gem in there that sparks an enlightened thought, maybe a contrary thought, to action you can utilize to improve your own life and the lives of those around you — an evolutionary moment.  You never know:  the pearl within the oyster mantle.

When Anton Chekhov had a massive bleeding attack from his tuberculosis all over a white tablecloth while dining in a restaurant and wound up in the hospital, Leo Tolstoy came to sit at his bedside, attired in his big fur coat, the image of a Russian bear.  Or was it Chekhov’s “Black Monk”?  Tolstoy’s inculcations and mysticism came close to hypnotic, observed Chekhov.  Chekhov and Tolstoy had become friends, often spending moments in time together.  Chekhov, so he told the story to one student, on his first meeting with Tolstoy, had swum with Tolstoy in the pond at Tolstoy’s family estate, Yasnaya Polyana.  The name translates to Bright Glade.  Whether or not he indeed swam in the pond with Tolstoy, up to their necks, Tolstoy’s beard floating on the water, it makes a humorous image; and Chekhov was awed, both to visit Yasnaya Polyana for the first time in 1895 and by Tolstoy’s later hospital visit.  He was a great admirer of Tolstoy, Tolstoy being 32 years his senior and already well established as a great writer, world famous.  In turn, Tolstoy admired Chekhov’s work, especially the humor, and encouraged him.  At this hospital bedside meeting I would have loved to have been the fly on the wall, the one in the overcoat; alas I only can speculate on what Tolstoy and Chekhov discussed.  It is often repeated, though, that Tolstoy did advise Chekhov not to write any more plays.

read more…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *