Books: Billy-Goat Pining for Purity

TOLSTOY by Henri Troyat. Translated by Nancy Amphoux. 762 pages. Doubleday. $7.95.

Making statements about Leo Tolstoy is like pouring a fifth of vodka into the Volga. Academic theses, the complex configurations of criticism, even psychology's intimate probes are quickly engulfed by Tolstoy's turbulent, enigmatic genius.

Henri Troyat, Russian-born novelist, biographer of Dostoevsky and Pushkin and member of the French Academy, is well aware of the dangers of attempting to "explain" Tolstoy. Instead of offering absolute answers, he approaches his immense task with unflagging respect and fascination for the conflicting variety of ideas...

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