Resurrection (Tolstoy novel)

Resurrection (pre-reform Russian: Воскресеніе; post-reform Russian: Воскресение, tr. Voskreséniye), first published in 1899, was the last novel written by Leo Tolstoy. Also translated as The Awakening. The book is the last of his major long fiction works published in his lifetime. Tolstoy intended the novel as an exposition of the injustice of man-made laws and the hypocrisy of the institutionalized church. The novel also explores the economic philosophy of Georgism, of which Tolstoy had become a very strong advocate towards the end of his life, and explains the theory in detail.

Resurrection 1899.jpg
Front page of Resurrection, first edition, 1899 (Russian)
AuthorLeo Tolstoy
Original titleВоскресеніе
GenrePhilosophical novel, political fiction
PublisherFirst published serially in Niva
then Dodd, Mead (US)
Publication date
Published in English
Media typePrint (Hardcover, Paperback) and English-language Audio Book
Pages483 (Oxford World's Classics edition)

Plot outlineEdit

The story is about a nobleman named Dmitri Ivanovich Nekhlyudov, who seeks redemption for a sin committed years earlier. When he was a younger man, at his Aunts' estate, he fell in love with their ward, Katyusha (Katerina Mikhailovna Maslova), who is goddaughter to one Aunt and treated badly by the other. However, after going to the city and becoming corrupted by drink and gambling, he returns two years later to his Aunts' estate and rapes Katyusha, leaving her pregnant. She is then thrown out by his Aunt, and proceeds to face a series of unfortunate and unpleasant events, before she ends up working as a prostitute, going by her surname, Maslova.

Ten years later, Nekhlyudov sits on a jury which sentences the girl, Maslova, to prison in Siberia for murder (poisoning a client who beat her, a crime of which she is innocent). The book narrates his attempts to help her practically, but focuses on his personal mental and moral struggle. He goes to visit her in prison, meets other prisoners, hears their stories, and slowly comes to realize that below his gilded aristocratic world, yet invisible to it, is a much larger world of cruelty, injustice and suffering. Story after story he hears and even sees people chained without cause, beaten without cause, immured in dungeons for life without cause, and a twelve-year-old boy sleeping in a lake of human dung from an overflowing latrine because there is no other place on the prison floor, but clinging in a vain search for love to the leg of the man next to him, until the book achieves the bizarre intensity of a horrific fever dream. He decides to give up his property and pass ownership on to his peasants, leaving them to argue over the different ways in which they can organise the estate, and he follows Katyusha into exile, planning on marrying her. On their long journey into Siberia, she falls in love with another man, and Nekhludov gives his blessing and still chooses to live as part of the penal community, seeking redemption.

An illustration by Leonid Pasternak in one of the early English editions.

Popular and critical receptionEdit

The novel was an unfinished draft which Tolstoy (age 71) began 10 years earlier as the "Konevskaya story". In August 1898 he urgently decided to finish, copyright and sell it to aid the emigration of the most persecuted third of the pacifist Spiritual Christian Dukhobortsy from Russia to Canada. He completed it in December 1899.

The book was eagerly awaited. "How all of us rejoiced," one critic wrote on learning that Tolstoy had decided to make his first fiction in 25 years, not a short novella but a full-length novel. "May God grant that there will be more and more!" It outsold Anna Karenina and War and Peace. Despite its early success, today Resurrection is not as famous as the works that preceded it.

Some writers have said that Resurrection has characters that are one-dimensional and that as a whole the book lacks Tolstoy's earlier attention to detail. By this point, Tolstoy was writing in a style that favored meaning over aesthetic quality.[1]

The book was to be published serially simultaneously in Russia, Germany, France, England and America, to quickly raise funds and give him time to finish the story, but delayed due to contract "difficulties" requiring parts to be censored and shortened.[2] It appeared in the popular Russian weekly magazine Niva illustrated by Leonid Pasternak, and in the American monthly magazine The Cosmopolitan as "The Awakening".[3] Many publishers printed their own editions because they assumed that Tolstoy had given up all copyrights as he had done with previous books. The complete text was not published in Russia until 1936, and in English in 1938.[4]

Tolstoy's contribution of 34,200 roubles to the plight of Dukhobortsy[5] ($17,000)[6] had been acknowledged several times in gratitude and aid to the Tolstoy Estate "Yasnaya Polyana" by the descendants of Dukhobortsy in Canada.

It is said of legendary Japanese filmmaker Kenji Mizoguchi that he was of the opinion that "All melodrama is based on Tolstoy's Resurrection".[7]


Operatic adaptations of the novel include Risurrezione (1904) by Italian composer Franco Alfano, Vzkriesenie (1960) by Slovak composer Ján Cikker, and Resurrection by American composer Tod Machover. French composer Albert Roussel's 1903 tone poem Résurrection is inspired by the novel.

Additionally, various film adaptations, including a Russian film Katyusha Maslova of director Pyotr Chardynin (1915, the first film role of Natalya Lisenko); a 1937 Japanese film by Kenji Mizoguchi called a Aien kyo (The Straights of Love); 1944 Italian film IResurrection; a 1949 Chinese film version entitled "蕩婦心" (A Forgotten Woman) starring Bai Guang; and a 1960 Russian film, directed by Mikhail Shveitser with Yevgeny Matveyev, Tamara Semina and Pavel Massalsky, have been made.

The best-known film version, however, is Samuel Goldwyn's 1934 English-language film We Live Again, starring Fredric March and Anna Sten, and directed by Rouben Mamoulian. Kenji Mizoguchi's 1937 film Straights of love and hate was inspired by Resurrection, and the Italian directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani released their TV film Resurrezione in 2001. The Spanish director Alberto Gonzalez Vergel released his TV film Resureccion in 1966.

The 1968 BBC mini-series Resurrection, was rebroadcast in the US on Masterpiece Theatre,[8] and the 1973 Indian movie Barkha Bahar was based on this novel.

An Indian-Bengali film adaptation titled "জীবন জিজ্ঞাসা" (Jibon Jiggasha) was released in 1971, directed by Piyush Bose and starring Uttam Kumar and Supriya Chowdhury.

Japan's all-female musical theater group Takarazuka Revue adopted the novel into musical twice. First in 1962 as "カチューシャ物語" (Katyusha's Story), performed by Star Troupe starring Yachiyo Kasugano;[9] and in 2012 as "復活 -恋が終わり、愛が残った-" (Resurrection - Love Remains After the Affair Ends)[10] performed by Flower Troupe starring Tomu Ranju. The plot Takarazuka Revue adapted follows more closely to We Live Again than the book.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit


  1. ^ Simons, Ernest J. (1968). Introduction To Tolstoy's Writings. University of Chicago Press. p. 187. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  2. ^ Editor Cosmopolitan (August 1899). "Discontinuance of Count Tolstoy's Novel Made Necessary by the Violation of Every Important Detail of the Contract Made with Count Tolstoy's Agents". The Cosmopolitan. 27 (4): 447–449.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  3. ^ "The Awakening". The Cosmopolitan. 27: 34–48. May 1899. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  4. ^ Tolstoy, Leo (1938). Resurrection. Project Gutenberg. Translated by Louise Maude.
  5. ^ Sulerzhit︠s︡kiĭ, Leopolʹd Antonovich (1982). To America with the Doukhobors. Saskatchewan, Canada: University of Regina Press. p. 38. ISBN 9780889770256.
  6. ^ Adelman, Jeremy (1990–91). "Early Doukhobor Experience on the Canadian Prairies". Journal of Canadian Studies. 25 (4): 111–128. doi:10.3138/jcs.25.4.111. S2CID 151908881.CS1 maint: date format (link)
  7. ^ Shindo, Kaneto (1975). Kenji Mizoguchi: The Life of a Film Director.
  8. ^ Resurrection at IMDb.
  9. ^ "Takarazuka Wiki | Kasugano Yachiyo".
  10. ^