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Everybody likes to shake up things a little. Inside most creators (book author, poet, film-maker, painter) lies a spirit that would risk the fate of their own works (and lives) just to be able to “rattle the cages” that we, most of the time, use instead of our heads. This is how comes that books have been forbidden. Authors have been persecuted. Movie rolls have been burned. Teachings have been banned. Pictures have been rejected as provocative (to the mind and body).
Tolstoi was no stranger to shaking up things: his novella The Kreutzer Sonata (published 1889) has been censored by Russian authorities, the US Post Office prohibited the mailing of newspapers containing installments of his work and US authorities forbid the sale of his book.
To say that the book is about love, marriage, chastity and death is to describe the very ideal of a Russian story and would surely not reveal too much about the subject. Let’s say that Tolstoi proposes an ideal that we find today more and more distant from our ways of life. That’s why it is important to meet Tolstoi the stranger.