Books: A Billy-Goat Pining for Purity TOLSTOY

by A.N. Wilson; Norton; 548 pages; $25 TOLSTOY: THE ULTIMATE RECONCILIATION by Martine de Courcel Translated by Peter Levi; Scribner's; 458 pages; $27.50

The artistry of War and Peace and Anna Karenina translates into many languages, but Leo Tolstoy the social phenomenon is strictly Russian. Most biographers take this fact for granted. A.N. Wilson spells it out in his descriptions of that vast, isolated kingdom of the 19th century in which the roles of writer and prophet were frequently indistinguishable. Martine de Courcel strikes a deeper Slavic chord when she says that Tolstoy's aim was to become a Fool of God. Count Leo was, of course, no fool, although many of his truths never got off the ground. His moralizing often seems as windy...

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