Master and Man - A Short Story by Leo Tolstoy - 1895 -translated 2009 by Richard Pevear and Larrisa Volokohonsky
September 9, 1828
War and Peace- 1869
Anna Karenina - 1877
"Master and Man" - 1895
November 20, 1910
A few days ago I was watching a very interesting program on YouTube (https://youtu.be/gLXpYJDdEUI), Dickens Versus Tolstoy: The Battle of the Great 19th Century Novelists. Simon Schama is the advocate for Tolstoy, not long ago I read the first two volumes of his History of the Jewish People. (Volume Three is coming in 2021.)
Schama is deeply into the famous novels of Tolstoy and I was a bit shocked when he suggested one of his short stories, "Master and Man" well might be his best work.
"Master and Man" is set on a country estate. Russian serfs were freed in 1861 but most were still tied to estates. Some serfs had become affluent land owners but most were still dependent on their old masters. (The thinking in Russia in 1895 was that if you want something done, employ a freed serf.)
There are two central characters in the story, the owner of a country estate. this short story, a land owner named Vasily Andreyevich Brekhunov takes one of his ex-serfs, for a short journey in a one horse sleigh. It is in the middle of the Russian winter. They are traveling to visit another landowner so that Vasily Andreyevivh can purchase a forest. People advise Brekhunov to wait until the snow storm ends but he wants to be the first to bid.
The power of the storm and the foolishness of this trip quickly become clear. They have lots of problems but luckily stumble on an estate. Nikita wants to stay the night but his master wants to push on. The storm gets worse, the poor horse struggles on.
I won't spoil the ending.
Tolstoy has shown us the social world of the story.
I read this story in The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories, translated by Richard Pevear and Larrisa Volokohonsky. This is fairly priced at $4.95 in Kindle format.
If you have read Tolstoy's major novels, these would be a fine edition for you. If you want to get started in Tolstoy through his shorter works, then this is perfect.