Leo Tolstoy left this earth a hundred years ago, but he certainly left with us his great writing and his keen insight into the human psyche of his day. And many see that day is still with us. His “Confessions” and short stories written after his two great novels reveal a pretty clear picture of his own thoughts and observations, not only of the pre-revolutionary world around him, but of civilization’s historic institutions, such as the hierarchal church. I highly recommend the film about his last year, “The Last Station,” with Helen Mirren. There are so many examples of his thought, often humorous in a typical Russian ironic way. Here is one about Tolstoy’s view of the European, and the Russian man.
“A Frenchman is self-assured because he regards himself personally both in mind and body as irresistibly attractive to men and women. An Englishman is self-assured as being a citizen of the best-organized state in the world and therefore, as an Englishman, always knows what he should do and knows that all he does as an Englishman is undoubtedly correct. An Italian is self-assured because he is excitable and easily forgets himself and other people. A Russian is self-assured just because he knows nothing and does not want to know anything, since he does not believe that anything can be known. The German’s self-assurance is worst of all, stronger and more repulsive than any other, because he imagines that he knows the truth—science—which he himself has invented but which is for him the absolute truth.”
Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910), Russian novelist philosopher. War and Peace, bk. 9, ch. 10 (1868–69).