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Cossacks (Modern Library) Paperback – 26 Jan 2005

4.9 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library Inc; Modern Library Pbk. Ed edition (26 Jan. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812975049
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812975048
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.1 x 20.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,987,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


When you think of Tolstoy, you most likely think of his epic novels, like Anna Karenina or War and Peace. You probably don't think of his shorter pieces like The Cossacks, a shorter novella that is considered to be the author's autobiography. The book centers around an unhappy Muscovite nobleman named Dmitri Olénin who joins the army in search of adventure and purpose in his life. He winds up in the Caucasus and is intrigued by the geography and the simple people who live there. Along the way, he discovers himself and falls in love for the first time, and in turn discovers the pain love can bring. We meet a cast of characters that includes the manly Cossack soldier Lukashka, the beautiful Cossack girl Maryanka, and the larger-than-life grandfather figure, Uncle Yeroshka, each of who play an important role in the life education of Olénin. Since this has always been one of my favorite books, I was curious to see how it translated into the audiobook format. The voice work is done by Jonathan Oliver, an English actor who has over a decade of experience reading audiobooks for the blind. At first, I was a little thrown by his English accent, as I know many Russians personally, and I always lent a Russian accent to The Cossacks characters in my mind. But as the story progressed, I got used to Oliver's accent and it became very natural sounding, as he took on the life of the characters. He also did a wonderful job of changing out his vocal style as each different character spoke, making it easy to tell who was speaking as the conversations took place. I especially liked his portrayal of Uncle Yeroshka, the colorful old man of the Cossack village who takes Olénin under his wing. Oliver's voice bellows and rings out with intensity, bringing the character to life in incredible fashion. Oliver is obviously very familiar with the story as well as Tolstoy in general, and he adds touches here and there to make the story even more special. For example, he reads the descriptive sections with the same enthusiasm as the speaking roles, painting a perfect picture of the Cossack village and the activities of its inhabitants as they go about daily life. He also sings their songs with a convincing air, staying in character the whole time. As far as classic literature goes, this one is an easy listen. It is not too long, and the story moves quickly, filled with adventure and a touch of innocent romance. Plus, it is a great introduction to Tolstoy without getting lost in the epic length of some of his other works. Highly recommended. --MISH MASH, --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

"Tolstoy's lavish and always graphic use of detail," wrote John Bayley, "together of course with its romance and exotic setting . . . has made "The Cossacks the most popular of all his works." This vibrant new translation of Tolstoy's 1862 novel, by PEN Translation Award winner Peter Constantine, is the author's semiautobiographical depiction of young Olenin, a wealthy, disaffected Muscovite, who joins the Russian army and travels to the untamed frontier of the Caucasus in search of a more authentic life. Quartered with his regiment in a Cossack village, Olenin revels in the glories of nature and the rough strength of the Cossacks and Chechens. Smitten by his unrequited love for a local girl, Maryanka, Olenin has a profound but ultimately short-lived spiritual awakening. Try as he might to assimilate, he remains an awkward outsider and his long search for a more enlightened and purposeful existence comes to naught.
With the philosophical insight that would characterize Tolstoy's later masterpieces, this long overdue major new translation is a revelation.

"From the Hardcover edition.

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Format: Hardcover
After reading Tolstoy's "The Cossacks", Virginia Woolf wrote of the 'shock' of his 'genius' . . . and found it 'hard to imagine that he can ever be surpassed.' I also experienced a shock. This was the shock of finding the perfect short novel. A perfect love story, a perfect adventure. It now glows in my brain cell as a memory of perfection. I cannot believe that such prose can exist in the world.

The Maude's translation is excellent - they were Tolstoy's chosen translators. Purchasing this book as an Everyman hardback is recommended. You will want to keep it for a lifetime and give it pride of place on your bookshelf.

Everyman also produce a lengthy, two volume, edition of his shorter works, but without "The Cossacks". It contains several short novels that are close to "The Cossacks" in standard.

If you haven't read Tolstoy yet, try "the Cossacks" first. It demonstrates Tolstoy's mastery in a transparently approachable format. It is the finest of hors d'oeuvres to savour before tackling War & Peace or Anna Karenina.
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By Luc REYNAERT TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 1 July 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The three stories in this book unveil clearly Tolstoy's vision on mankind, on life and death, on war and peace, on religion, morality and political leadership. Moreover, what was of utmost importance to him was truth: `the hero of my story, who has always been, is now and will always be supremely magnificent, is truth.' (Sevastopol Stories)

The Cossacks (the truth about happiness)
The main character in this story runs away from the fake Moscow high society in order to live a Rousseau-an Cossack `natural' life, where `people live as nature lives: they die, are born, copulate, are born again, drink, eat, rejoice and die again.' For him, happiness is true love and also self-denial: `is there any point in living for oneself, when very soon one may die without having done any good?'
But, can he forget his corrupt past? Can he become an integrated part of a `natural' Cossack community? Is true love for him possible?

Sevastopol stories (the truth about war)
The central characters in these reports on the battle for control of the Sevastopol bastion are the common people used as cannon fodder, against their general instinct for self-preservation and a common desire to escape from this terrible place of death.'
The authentic expression for war 'is blood, suffering and death'.
Tolstoy is appalled by the cynical hypocrisy of the powerful, who are luring with fake heroism and false patriotism young people into the battlefield and sure death.

Hadji Murat (the truth about political leadership)
`Hadji Murat' is a story about political power struggles and treason.
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By A Customer on 3 May 2001
Format: Hardcover
Tolstoi's first novel and acknowledged as one of his best shorter novels, overshadowed by the likes of the mammoth epic War and Peace and the quintessential 19th century tale of adultery Anna Karenina.
In The Cossacks, Tolstoi provides a rich and vivid description with meticulous detail of Cossack appearance, everyday life, and its society, showing its warmth and unity all set against the backdrop of the Caucasus. And in true Tolstoi fashion it deals with matters of the human heart, the author's abilities to present and translate the intangible feelings and transfer them to print has long been acknowledged as one of his gifts. We are shown Olyénin's yearning for Maryánushka and his feelings of futility towards the betrothed maiden coupled with the universal indecisiveness that exists within us all and the inner struggle of human nature. He yearns for but lacks the strength even to approach her, only watching from afar, feeling worthless against her and at the same fighting a conflict within him to acknowledge his feelings. Each character is well developed, embodying human shortcomings and the disappointments of real life (we never get what we want). We see the young arrogance of Lushkashka, the snobbery of Vasílyevitch and the old sage Cossack 'uncle' Yeroshka with his stubborn old ways. All of this we are invited to watch by the author without prejudice, for Tolstoi writes without judging.
The theme of "love for all" that runs through so many of Tolstoi's books is by no means absent here, with a love triangle between Olyénin, Maryánushka and Lushkashka. Olyénin is willing to abandon his philosophy of self renunciation for Maryánushka, he as an outsider desperately wanting to be integrated and accepted into this society.
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Format: Hardcover
The novella focuses on the character of Olenin, a young,wealthy and extremely likeable Russian soldier, who abandons his hedonistic Muscovite lifestyle in order to serve with the Russian army in the Caucasus. Throughout much of the story Olenin maintains a grandiose perception of his surroundings and naively dreams of forging a life for himself amongst the native Cossacks. The character intentionally marginalizes himself from his Russian military counterparts and attempts to become immersed within Cossack culture by hunting with,and bestowing gifts upon, local villagers; he even proposes to a local Cossack girl. The inherently flawed nature of Olenin's dream is what makes Tolstoy's story so brilliant.
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