Monday, July 25, 2011
Master and Man
The Penguin Classics edition of Tolstoy’s Master and Man and Other Stories contains some short story gems we would expect in Tolstoy collection.
Most have the religious sensibility of Tolstoy’s later years, and only stories like “Neglect a Spark and the House Burns Down” is somewhat obvious and thereby heavy handed. The others are masterpieces of storytelling and message melded into one. “Three Hermits,” “Two Old Men,” “How Much Land Does a Man Need” are all famous Tolstoy stories, part fable, part wish-fulfillment, all fully crafted and realized.
Tolstoy at this best shows how short fiction can be an excellent vehicle to express religious and theological ideas without getting overpowered by them. The best of his stories in this vein walk a fine line between the power of the idea and the magic of storytelling.