Tatiana Tolstaya – Remembering Leo Tolstoy

In an investigation, a Parisian newspaper asked the question: what sign makes us recognize the coming of old age ?  Someone replied: old age comes when your memories overwhelm you.


Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy

 For some time I have felt this very intense. In my moments of loneliness, I see fragments from my past. I review a certain scene, think I hear voices… These memories are often related to my father, Leo Tolstoy, who was everything  I had dearest and brighter in my life.

I can not always relate them to events that preceded or followed them, nor to fix them at a certain date. But I see the episode as if it had happened yesterday. I write down these  “memory flashes” as they emerge.

Dad Gets a Baksheesh

From Moscow to Iasnaia Poliana is about 200 km and sometimes my father was walking this way. With the bag in his back, he mingled among the pilgrims he was interested in, but for whom he has been just a simple traveler. He was making this trip in five days. On the way, he stopped eating and sleeping in a wooden house or at a country inn. When he approached a train station, he went to eat in the waiting room of the third class.

In one of these stops, walking on the platform where a train was ready to leave, he heard someone call him.


“Hey, old man, old man !”, a woman yelled from the train window. “Do you want to go to the woman’s toilet and bring me the bag that I left there ? But go quickly, because the train leaves soon.”

My dad ran to the women’s toilet where he was lucky to find the bag, and then gave it to the lady.

“Thank you very much,” said the lady, and gave him a large bronze coin.

“Do you know who you gave those five kopecks ?”, asked her a traveler who recognized the dusty pilgrim as being the author of the book War and Peace. “To Leo Tolstoy !”

“God, what  have I done ! Lev Nikolayevich, Lev Nikolayevich ! Please forgive me and give me back the five kopecks I gave you out of my stupidity .”

“Why ?”, my dad answered. You didn’t do anything wrong. The five kopecks I won honestly. I keep them…”

The train moved into motion, carrying with it the lady who continued to apologize, bagging Tolstoy to give her the coin back.

Tolstoy, with a smile, was watching the train moving away.

from Tatiana Tolstaya, Avec Leon Tolstoi. Souvenirs

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Determinism is a view about the world, based on the belief that what is happening everywhere is predetermined (established, fixed, determined) and therefore necessary, which leads to the conclusion that the events could not have happened otherwise than they happened.

determinism1The intuitive idea of determinism can be summed up by saying that the world is like a movie: the image that is now projected represents the present. Those parts of the movie that have already been played are the past, and those that haven’t yet been presented are the future.

In the movie the future coexists with the past; and the future is fixed, exactly the same, as the past. Although the spectator may not know the future, each future, without exception, could in principle be certainly known. In fact, the future is even known by the film producer – The Creator of the World.

The idea of determinism is of religious origin, although there are great religions that believe in nondeterminism  – the doctrine claiming that at least some events are not fixed in advance.

Religious determinism is linked to the ideas of divine almighty, the power to fully determine the future, and divine omniscience, which implies that the future is already known to God, being fixed in advance.


Besides religious determinism, there is a form of the deterministic doctrine which I call it “scientific”. From a historical point of view, the idea of “scientific” determinism can be seen as a result of replacing the idea of God with the idea of nature, and the idea of divine law with the law of nature.

Nature or perhaps the law of nature is omnipotent and omniscient. They fix everything in advance. In contrast to God, whose will is hidden from sight and can be known only by revelation, the laws of nature can be discovered by man’s reason with the help of his experience. And if we know the laws of nature, then we can foresee the future based on present day data by purely rational methods.

Characteristic of all forms of deterministic doctrine is that every event in the world is predetermined: if at least one future event is not predetermined then determinism must be rejected, nondeterminism being true.

from Karl Popper, The Open Universe

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When the snow falls…

During the times brokes out

Pain for dead souls,

Although… these are past events !


When the snow falls…

Again, love that disappeared

Awakens lonly poets,

Although… these are past events !


When the snow falls…

 As on an unknown shore…

Again, I think she’s beautiful,

Although… these are past events !

George Bacovia, Memento

translated from Romanian by Marcel Rus

#beautiful, #dead-souls, #events, #lonly-poets, #love, #memento, #pain, #past, #shore, #snow, #times, #unknown