|Tolstoy's bedroom in Astapovo|
I plan to mark this occasion by inviting my students and colleagues to view a screening of the film The Last Station (Michael Hoffmann, 2010), which is based on a novelisation of the last year of Tolstoy's life by Jay Parini, an American Professor of English. Parini based his story on close reading of the many diaries and letters left by Tolstoy and those close to him in his last year at the family estate of Yasnaya Polyana: and they were quite a crew. Tolstoy's intimate circle included his wife of forty-eight years, who had borne him thirteen children over the course of their stormy marriage, taken down drafts of his major writings, and even held power of attorney over his possessions, Sofia Andreevna; their eight surviving children including Sasha, the youngest daughter, who was dangerously resentful of her mother; Vladimir Chertkov, a passionate Tolstoyan who venerated Tolstoy as much as he despised the great man's family and wealth; and Valentin Bulgakov, a newly appointed private secretary, William Shirer's 'ubiquitous Bulgakov', who chronicled the last months of Tolstoy's life with a sympathetic but penetrating eye. It was a group doomed to constant and humiliating strife: tantrums, quarrels, secrecy and even suicide attempts followed one after another. As A.N. Wilson wrote in his biography of Tolstoy, 'The last years of Tolstoy's life were scandalously horrible - this unedifying series of horrible disputes and emotional disruptions... [Tolstoy's] odious, humourless disciples'.
|Valentin Bulgakov and Tolstoy at work|
|Kerry Condon as "Masha" in the movie|
|James McAvoy as Valentin Bulgakov in The Last Station|