The ten stories collected in this volume demonstrate Tolstoy's artistic prowess displayed over five decades - experimenting with prose styles and drawing on his own experiences with humour, realism and compassion. Inspired by his experiences in the army, 'The Two Hussars' contrasts a dashing father and his mean-spirited son. Illustrating Tolstoy's belief that art must serve a moral purpose, 'What Men Live By' portrays an angel sent to earth to learn three existential rules of life, and 'Two Old Men' shows a peasant abandoning his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in order to help his neighbours. And in the highly moving 'Master and Man', Tolstoy depicts a mercenary merchant travelling with his unprotesting servant through a blizzard to close a business deal - little realizing he may soon have to settle accounts with his maker.
Count Leo Tolstoy was born in 1828 on the family estate of Yasnaya Polyana, in the Tula province. He took part in the Crimean war and after the defence of Sevastopol wrote The Sevastopol Sketches (1855-6), which established his literary reputation. He is the author, among many other works, of War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877) and A Confession (1879-82). Ronald Wilks has translated widely from the Russian, including for Penguin works by Gorky, Gogol and Chekhov. Hugh McLean has published widely on Russian literature, including contributing an essay on "The Countryside" to the Cambridge Companion to the Classic Russian Novel and one on Tolstoy's Resurrection to the Cambridge Companion to Tolstoy. Paul Foote was, until his retirement, a University Lecturer in Russian and Fellow of the Queen's College, Oxford.