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"Who, What Am I?"Tolstoy Struggles to Narrate the Self$
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Irina Paperno

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780801453342

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801453342.001.0001

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“To Write My Life”: Tolstoy Tries, and Fails, to Produce a Memoir or Autobiography

“To Write My Life”: Tolstoy Tries, and Fails, to Produce a Memoir or Autobiography

(p.81) Chapter Four “To Write My Life”: Tolstoy Tries, and Fails, to Produce a Memoir or Autobiography
"Who, What Am I?"

Irina Paperno

Cornell University Press

This chapter describes Tolstoy's unfinished attempts to write a memoir or autobiography, focusing on how and why he failed. As Tolstoy himself made clear, there were moral, technical, and philosophical difficulties. On the moral side, he feared that a completely truthful account of his life would be a seductive book and might lead the reader into temptation. On the technical side, while he put his trust in the authenticity of mental images that had made imprints on his memory, he was unable to connect such memories—including what people call screen memories—into a narrative sequence. Finally, there were philosophical reasons for Tolstoy's failure as a memoirist: his refusal to accept that memories are limited to biological or biographical life.

Keywords:   Leo Tolstoy, memoir, autobiography, temptation, mental images, screen memories, narrative sequence, memories

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