delicious recipe
resep masakan indonesia
resep masakan indonesia
Adi Sucipto News and Entertainment

Leo Tolstoy, Mikhail Artsybashev, and Richard Wagner: About One Case of Polemics in Tolstoy’s The Circle of Reading

Anastasia A. Tulyakova


The article deals with a case from the creative history of Leo Tolstoy’s The Circle of Reading (1908), when Tolstoy included the revised story of Guy de Maupassant’s Le Port under the title “Sisters” in the second edition of the book. The author proves that the reason for Tolstoy’s decision was his polemic with “saninstvo” as one of the most fashionable ethical trends of the first decade of the 1900s. The key component of Sanin’s behavior and hedonistic philosophy in Mikhail Artsybashev’s novel was incest. Maupassant’s novella is based on the same plot. On the basis of Tolstoy’s nonfictional texts of the 1890s, including the treatise What Is Art? (1898), the article reconstructs the writer’s view on the forms and boundaries of the representation of incest in Richard Wagner’s operas and in Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy, with which Tolstoy also polemicized and in connection with which he stated the ethical potential of art and its permissiveness. From this perspective, Tolstoy’s reaction to Artsybashev’s novel, combining the motives of incest and extreme individualism, turns out to be a new phase of the old dispute. Tolstoy included the story “Sisters” in the second edition of The Circle of Reading as a response to the philosophy of “saninstvo.” Thus, Tolstoy’s collection of wise thoughts can be considered not only as didactic, but also as a polemical text, and deeply rooted in the ideological context of the 1890s‒1900s.


Leo Tolstoy; Guy de Maupassant; Mikhail Artsybashev; The Circle of Reading; incest; saninstvo


Bem A. L., Sreznevskiy V. I., Bibliograficheskii ukazatelʹ tvorenii Tolstogo, Leningrad, 1926.

Boele O., Erotic Nihilism in Late Imperial Russia. The Case of Mikhail Artsybashev’s Sanin, Madison (WI), 2009.

Cavazza A., “‘Krug chteniia’ L. N. Tolstogo,” Russkaia rechʹ, 6, 1988, 24–29.

Davis H. E., Tolstoy and Nietzsche: A Problem in Biographical Ethics, New York, 1929.

Emig C., Arbeit am Inzest: Richard Wagner und Tomas Mann, Frankfurt a. M., 1998.

Grodetskaya A. G., “‘Ishchi zhe istinu — ona etogo khochet’,” in: L. N. Tolstoy, Mysli mudrykh liudei na kazhdyi denʹ, St. Petersburg, 2012, 5‒20.

Hollinrake R., Nietzsche, Wagner and the Philosophy of Pessimism, London, New York, 2010.

Karenovics I., “Friedrich Nitzsche,” in: M. George, J. Herlth, C. Münch, U. Schmid, Hrsg., Tolstoj als theologischer Denker und Kirchenkritiker, Göttingen, 2014, 505–509.

Karlik N. A., Aforistika L. N. Tolstogo: sbornik mudrykh myslei “Krug chteniia”, St. Petersburg, 2012.

Kershner G. D., “Transgression and Taboo: Eros, Marriage, and Incest in Die Walküre,” in: L. J. DiGaetani, Inside the Ring: Essays on Wagner’s Opera Cycle, Jefferson (NC), 2006, 154–172.

Kokobobo A., “Corpses of Desire and Convention: Tolstoy’s and Artsybashev’s Grotesque Realism,” in: K. Bowers, A. Kokobobo, Russian Writers and the Fin de Siècle. The Twilight of Realism, Cambridge, 2015, 162–179.

LeBlanc R. D., “Saninism Versus Tolstoyism: The Anti-Tolstoyan Subtext in Mikhail Artsybashev’s Sanin,” Tolstoy Studies Journal, 18, 2006, 16–32.

Nikolaev P. V., “L. N. Tolstoi i M. P. Artsybashev,” in: K. N. Lomunov, ed., Tolstoi i o Tolstom, 1, Moscow, 1998, 221–244.

Paperno I., “Who, What Am I?”: Tolstoy Struggles to Narrate the Self, Ithaca, London, 2014.

Prange M., Nietzsche, Wagner, Europe, Boston (MA), 2013.

Wagner N., Wagner Theater, Frankfurt a. M., Leipzig, 1998.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2017 Anastasia A. Tulyakova

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.