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Michael Katz did research in Russia to produce The Kreutzer Sonata Variations.

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New Book Gives Voice to Tolstoy's Wife

August 26, 2014

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. ­– The New York Times says Russian scholar Michael R. Katz’s new book The Kreutzer Sonata Variations is adding momentum to a revisionist view that Leo Tolstoy’s wife was not a villain. In fact, the Times declares, Sophia Andreevna Tolstoy was “a highly cultured woman with a valid claim to stake as a fiction writer and memoirist.”

In the book released today by Yale University Press, the C.V. Starr professor emeritus of Russian and East European studies at Middlebury College has translated into English – for the first time – two novellas written by Sophia Tolstoy. Who’s Fault? and Song Without Words reflect on the institution of marriage in Russia in the late-19th century, and were seemingly written in response to Leo Tolstoy’s The Kreutzer Sonata.


The volume also includes Katz's translation of Leo's The Kreutzer Sonata, the first-ever translation of a story titled Chopin’s Prelude written by the Tolstoys’ son Lev Lvovich Tolstoy, and excerpts from Sophia’s letters, diaries, and other writings – all translated by Katz, who adds commentary on defining themes and places the novellas in the larger cultural and historical context.

The Times calls the 384-page compilation “a kind of dossier [that] provides a new translation of Tolstoy’s story and surrounds it with material that sheds light on the furor that touched it off.” The Christian Science Monitor also published an appraisal of the new book.

The novellas by the wife and son, along with boxes of correspondence and notes, sat untouched in the archives of the Leo Tolstoy Museum for more than a century until their recent publication in Russia.

“My first reaction on reading the stories was astonishment that they had existed and no one knew about them” for so many years, Katz told the New York Times

The author of two books on Russian literature and the translator of more than a dozen Russian novels into English, Katz received an emeritus fellowship from the Mellon Foundation to support his years of research in Russia and the United Kingdom. He is now working on a new translation of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, commissioned by Norton Publishers.

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