The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

June 23, 2017

June 23, 1935

Nikolai Tolstoy (June 23, 1935), is the English born son of a Russian immigrant. They are very distantly related to Leo. Describing his own connection, at that remove, from his father's homeland Nikolai Tolstoy wrote:

.... I think I was the most affected by those melancholy and evocative Russian homes where my elders, for the most part people of great charm and eccentricity, lived surrounded by the relics Рikons, Easter eggs, portraits of Tsar and Tsaritsa, family photographs, and émigré newspapers Рof that mysterious, far-off land of wolves,boyars, and snow-forests of Ivan Bilibin's famous illustrations to Russian fairy-tales. Somewhere there was a real Russian land to which we all belonged, but it was shut away over distant seas and space of years.

His mother remarried, (Patrick O'Brian), and so Nikolai's youth was also formed by a connection with the novelist many consider

....the greatest British novelist of the twentieth century. The fifteen volumes of the series set in the Royal Navy of the beginning of the nineteenth century and featuring Aubrey and Maturin have been hailed as 'the best historical novels ever written' by the New York Times. 

Tolstoy later wrote O'Brian's biography, Patrick O'Brian: The Making of the Novelist (2004), and we learn from his Google Books blurb:

This volume will tell the story of O'Brian's life up to his decision to move to Collioure in the South of France. His oppressed childhood, his precocious writing success, his first marriage, divorce and name change are all dealt with. Along the way Tolstoy reveals the seeds of inspiration that one day would lead to comparisons with Jane Austen and even Homer. Nikolai Tolstoy was O'Brian's stepson and knew him better than any other person. His acquaintanceship with him lasted forty-five years during most of O'Brian's marriage to Mary Tolstoy, Nikolai's mother. Tolstoy stayed with the couple regularly at their French home and was a frequent correspondent with the reclusive and secretive author, discovering facets of his character and creative genius that he showed to no one else. Tolstoy was the sole beneficiary of his stepfather's will and is one of the Trustees of O'Brian's estate. He has unique access to letters, notebooks and photographs, which will appear in this book. As such, this will be the definitive biography of one of our literary geniuses

The context Tolstoy created in this volume includes a quote:

"
And know another mark of the lion, it is that he sleeps with open eyes; and know that this signifies the Son of St. Mary; in his death waking, when, dying, he kills death."

At several removes, we can only be intrigued by this glimpse of a world unlike our own.

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