The Last Diary


Recently, I finished reading "Tolstoy's Last Diary," and my thoughts are innumerable.

I initially planned to read this book because of the amusing diary entry by Tolstoy in this picture, and I was also curious about his later life. However, after finishing it, I realized that the diary entry in the picture did not appear. After searching, I found out that those two diary entries were written by Tolstoy when he was around thirty years old, while this diary records his later life.

In the book, Tolstoy in his later years recorded almost every day's events, but they were mainly focused on writing and revising articles, taking walks and horseback rides, reading and replying to letters, and receiving guests. Sometimes he would also record his thoughts, which often enlightened me. Even after a hundred years, his words still carry great power.

In the latter part of the book, he chose to leave his affluent aristocratic life, and his diary became sporadic and eventually stopped. Tolstoy left this world, and his diary ended on the third-to-last day of his life.

Reading his diary, one can discern some of his qualities from the events he recorded, such as his meticulousness in revising articles, which reflects his strictness towards his works. In "Twelve Letters to Young People," Zhu Guangqian also described Tolstoy's meticulousness: "...he initially added printing symbols to the margins, such as deleting sentences and reading, then changed words, then changed sentences, and then made significant additions and deletions. In the end, that bottom page became riddled with holes and was so messy that it couldn't be recognized... Sometimes, after the manuscript had been sent out, my father suddenly thought of changing a few words and would send a telegram instructing the newspaper office to make the changes for him." He lived a wealthy life, but he was different from other aristocrats. For example, in his replies and when receiving guests, he was warm and attentive to the working class. Many of those who wrote letters or came to see him were seeking help and sharing their troubles, and he always tried his best to reply to them. Towards the lower class, he had a compassionate heart. When he saw someone older than him still working, he would lament his own lack of virtue and ability. It reminds me of the sentiment expressed in Bai Juyi's poem, "What merit and virtue do I have today, having never engaged in farming and weaving."

Although his aristocratic life may be enviable, he had his own troubles, which he wrote about in his diary—his diary being read by his wife, conflicts with his wife's political stance, family members falling ill, and his own aging. In the end, he left a letter to his wife and quietly left home. This is described in the Chinese textbook as "Tolstoy ultimately choosing to escape aristocratic life," but I think the main reason for his departure was family issues, followed by issues within the aristocratic circle.

I also keep a diary, and I have already written over two hundred thousand words. Although most of it is trivial matters, there are also some private opinions. While reading, I often wonder if my diary will be made public in the future. Would Tolstoy be willing to make his diary public? After all, the diary contains many of his opinions about certain individuals, such as his dislike of someone's flattering attitude or his criticism of someone's writing. If he did not authorize it, does future generations have the right to make someone else's diary public?

I am fortunate to have seen another side of Leo Tolstoy, the literary master—kind, wise, and meticulous. He is no longer just an eminent figure towering above others, but a mortal with ordinary worries.

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